Tallahassee, FL — Playing the day after a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup can be a tough act to follow—but let’s not forget the beauty of an in-state rivalry. Tonight’s (Dec. 8) game between Florida and Florida State was the 76th time the two squads have met in series history. However, this was the first time ever that both teams were nationally ranked while playing each other.
The No. 7 Seminoles, now 9-1 this season with tonight’s 83-58 win, played host to the No. 23 Gators who entered the game with an impressive 6-2 (now 6-3) mark on the year. Both teams are scattered throughout the Top 50 in various statistical categories.
For Florida State, they rank 16 in scoring offense (83.2 ppg), 11 in field goal percentage (48.6) and are out-rebounding opponents by an average of 10.7, which is 26 in the country. For the Gators, one of their greatest assets is their ability (not to mention willingness) to share the ball at 19.5 assists per game, 10 in the country.
With a 10-point lead at halftime, Florida State just looked like the better team through 20 minutes. Players and coaches often say rankings don’t mean anything, but to spectators, they often do. If the Connecticut, Notre Dame game taught us anything, it’s that the best teams are also consistently the toughest teams. The best teams make you make mistakes. The best teams have an edge mentally.
This is not a jab at Florida or any other opponent who faces and loses to a higher ranked team. In fact, the Gators showed tonight they are an extremely tough team. They battled for 40 minutes. They have played 9 straight games on the road. But in two areas that could subjectively be attributed to toughness and mental toughness—rebounding and free throws—Florida fell short.
Teams like Florida State get their opponents out of sink and that’s exactly what this rivalry entailed. Florida entered the game averaging 19.5 assists as previously referenced, but tonight, more than doubled their turnovers (27) to assists (10). The Seminoles may not have shot as well as they normally do, eclipsing a 40.3 percent clip from the field, but made up for it in other areas.
Florida State ended the night with a +10 rebounding margin, had more assists, less turnovers, had 18 more free throw attempts and shot a better percentage from the line than Florida. An off night for the Gators? Very well could have been—but the Seminoles’ No. 7 ranking certainly took Florida by storm.