COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) The Florida Gators aren’t known for their free-throw shooting. In fact, they rank 13th in the Southeastern Conference in free throw percentage at 63.4.
But free throws proved to be the difference in Florida’s 82-72 win over Missouri on Saturday night, as the Gators made 25 of 33 from the line, while the Tigers hit 11 of 20.
“Incredible,” Florida coach Mike White said of the foul-shooting. “I don’t understand our free-throw issue, or non-issue tonight. We’ve literally won basketball games on the foul line. If we don’t shoot such a high percentage in four or five of them, we don’t win those games. And then obviously, there has been a handful of games we’ve lost with the foul line being the biggest factor.”
Dorian Finney-Smith scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds, hitting all four of his foul shots.
“We just tried to come out and get stops,” Finney-Smith said. “If the ball went in or not, we just wanted to get stops and we did a good job of making it hard on them early in the game.”
Chris Chiozza added 17 points, eight assists and a season-high seven rebounds as the Gators spoiled Missouri’s senior night, which paid tribute to the team’s lone senior, forward Ryan Rosburg. Rosburg finished with 11 points – his eighth double-digit scoring performance in the last nine games.
“Just so many emotions, it’s hard to put into words,” Rosburg said. “Some things didn’t go the way I wanted to tonight, but all-in-all, it’s just a great experience just looking back on my four years. I’m so proud to have played for Missouri.”
Florida opened the game on a 21-6 run and maintained a double-digit lead throughout much of the game, enjoying a 44-28 halftime lead.
“That was a huge part of the game right there,” Chiozza said. “Our defense was really going the first half. We came out there with some fire and intensity. The way we start off games, we know we can’t start off slow.”
Chiozza scored Florida’s first eight points of the second half, including a 3-pointer that spurred a 13-6 run, giving the Gators a 21-point lead, their largest of the night. Chiozza was 5 for 8 from the field, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range, despite making his first field goal with 1:40 seconds remaining in the first half.
“I just got into a comfort zone,” Chiozza said. “The first half, I was playing pretty well, so the second half I came out a little more confident. I just took the shots when they were open.”
Missouri’s Terrence Phillips was assessed a technical foul at the 14:05 mark for arguing a shooting foul called against Russell Woods, resulting in four free-throw attempts for the Gators. Devin Robinson sank both attempts from the initial foul by Woods and Kevarrius Hayes made 1 of 2 free throws as a result of Phillips’ technical. Robinson finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
Missouri (10-21, 3-15 Southeastern Conference) found new life following Phillips’ technical, using a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to 11 points with fewer than 10 minutes to play. Phillips had 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, his first career double-double.
Florida (18-13, 9-9) slowed its tempo following the Tigers’ run, trading baskets as they whittled the clock. But Missouri continued to battle, using a late 10-0 run to cut the deficit to seven points with 1:03 seconds remaining. KeVaughn Allenmade all four of his free-throw attempts and Kasey Hill made 1 of 2 in the final minute. Allen finished with 13 points.
“They came out aggressive, especially defensively,” said Phillips, who fouled out with 28 seconds remaining. “Obviously it’s a little frustrating, but we’re never going to quit playing. That’s just who we are. We’re always going to play hard.”
Florida: Finney-Smith has posted at least 20 points and eight rebounds in five games this season, the most by a Gator since Marreese Speights did so seven times during the 2007-08 season. …John Egbunu has 67 dunks this season, joining Speights and Joakim Noah as the only players in school history with at least 60 dunks in a single season. He had nine points and six rebounds. …Florida’s strength of schedule ranks sixth in the NCAA RPI.
Missouri: Phillips had four assists in an 80-71 loss at LSU Mar. 1, becoming the eighth player in school history to record 100 assists in their freshman campaign. …Rosburg made his 70th career start in his 127th game for Missouri. …K.J. Walton made his seventh career start and his first since a 94-61 home loss to Arkansas Jan. 12. Walton had seven points and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
Florida: Will play ninth-seeded Arkansas in the SEC tournament Thursday.
Missouri: 2016-17 season.