Rushed Reactions: #13 Florida 77, #20 Memphis 75Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2013
Brian Otskey attended the Jimmy V. Classic on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden and filed this report.
Three Key Takeaways from the second game of the Jimmy V. Classic.
- Rebounding made the difference for Florida. The strong Gators front line absolutely dominated Memphis on the boards, out-rebounding the Tigers by 11–37 to 26. This allowed Florida to overcome 17 turnovers and come away with the win. It was an evenly played game in most areas but Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather were the difference makers on the glass for Billy Donovan’s team.
- Despite the loss, Memphis proved it is legitimate. It is rare for a team to impress in a loss, but the Tigers did just that tonight against Florida. While its win over Oklahoma State earlier this season certainly stands out, the Memphis showed once again that it can go toe-to-toe with one of college basketball’s best teams. Josh Pastner’s non-conference slate, which has included two games against Oklahoma State, one against Florida, and one against LSU, has done its job in preparing the Tigers for the rigors of conference play in their new league. Memphis has the talent to battle Connecticut for second place in the American assuming Louisville will win the league.
- Florida has so many weapons. The balanced scoring and overall talent on this team is scary. Billy Donovan has six capable scorers on his roster and can mix and match with a variety of different lineups that feature speed, perimeter shooting, interior dominance, or any combination of the three. I especially like what Dorian Finney-Smith brings to this team. The Virginia Tech transfer scored 14 points but his presence defensively and on the boards is what stood out. He changes the dynamic of Florida’s lineup because of his versatility. With Chris Walker possibly joining this already loaded unit, which Donovan significantly downplayed after the game, the Gators have the look of a Final Four contender yet again.
Star of the Game: Casey Prather, Florida. Prather’s terrific improvement from his junior to senior season continued on Tuesday night as the Gator senior led all scorers with 22 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting while connecting on all six free throw attempts. Prather was good on the defensive side as well, a key piece of a talented Florida front line that limited Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin to only four field goal attempts in 35 minutes of play. Prather has been among the most improved players in the nation and a key reason why Florida continues to improve, even after two close losses to date in non-conference play.
- “Coach D said we gotta have quality possessions and that’s what we did.” – Dorian Finney-Smith on Florida’s late-game execution.
- “I think these games have helped us get better.” – Florida head coach Billy Donovan on his tough non-conference schedule.
- “That kid is a hell of a player. I think he almost singlehandedly won the game for them.” – Donovan on Memphis’ Joe Jackson.
- “It was a good basketball game, two good teams. A high level game.” – Memphis head coach Josh Pastner.
Sights and Sounds: There were definitely more fans in attendance for this game compared to the first, but it was still a dismal turnout at Madison Square Garden. Both teams brought vocal supporters, but the amount of empty seats in the arena was staggering for such a quality game. It also helped that the teams on the court provided an excitement level far different than what we experienced in the earlier game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
What’s Next: Florida has three games left before beginning SEC play. It will play Fresno State in Sunrise, FL this Saturday and host Savannah State and Richmond over the next couple of weeks to round out the non-conference portion of its schedule. Memphis also returns home on Saturday to take on Southeast Missouri State before getting a visit from Jackson State the following week. Memphis opens American play on New Year’s Eve at South Florida.