For what seemed like a few seconds, Dorian Finney-Smith hung in the air, the result of a long stride into the paint after a devastating pump fake from the corner.
The junior wound back his right arm and slammed the ball into the net. He turned to the crowd and screamed.
Before the start of the game, the redshirt senior found himself surrounded by West Virginia players after they bumped into Florida’s huddle near halfcourt. The teams were separated by coaches.
“It made Dorian a little mad,” Chris Chiozza said. “He said, ‘We're not going to let them come into our house and do that, so we gotta be ready for war.'”
Behind a team-high 24 points from Finney-Smith, a 53.1-percent shooting performance and a 12-of-20 clip from behind the arc, Florida (14-7 5-7 Southeastern Conference) upset No. 9 West Virginia 88-71 on Saturday in front of a season-high attendance of 11,611 in the O’Connell Center.
While the Gators’ sporadic offense found success on Saturday, it was the game’s physicality that stood out the most.
Seven minutes into the contest, a West Virginia defender hit Kasey Hill across his face during the Mountaineers' inbounds play, breaking Hill’s nose.
Soon after, forward Kevarrius Hayes had his shoulder pulled in the paint and fell to the floor, where he remained for several minutes.
Next was freshman KeVaughn Allen, whose mouth was whacked by the hand of a driving West Virginia player at the start of the second half.
“It was real physical,” redshirt freshman Brandone Francis-Ramirez said. “They was grabbing you, pushing you, talking smack to you.”
But it didn’t have much of an effect on the Gators.
Florida began the game on an 11-2 run and never trailed, shooting 60 percent from behind the arc against the nation’s No. 2-ranked three-point field-goal defense. In addition, Florida’s 88 points were the most allowed by West Virginia this season.
“No way in my mind did I think we’d score 88 points against West Virginia,” Florida coach White said.
Along with his 7-of-12 shooting, Finney-Smith collected five rebounds, three assists, one block and converted on five of his seven threes. The forward's 24 points also pushed him over the 1,000-point mark for his career.
Allen added 19 points on 4-of-8 shooting and Chiozza had 10 points along with six assists.
But UF’s biggest surprise was Francis-Ramirez, who hit all three of his three pointers after making just one shot from behind the arc since Nov. 25 against Vermont.
“We showed each other what we’re capable of,” Finney-Smith said. “Now we got to bring it every game.”
One of the few things that went wrong for Florida was foul trouble.
Starting center John Egbunu was limited to just 12 minutes after collecting his second foul at the 11:51 mark of the first half.
White subbed in Hayes, who played just 10 minutes after getting into foul trouble of his own. Egbunu and Hayes’s played the least amount of minutes on the team.
But Florida’s defense didn’t suffer.
The Gators held the Mountaineers (17-4) to 43.1-percent shooting, including 35 percent from three-point range, and forced 18 turnovers.
“We're one of the top teams even though our ranking doesn't say it,” Chiozza said. “We feel like we can beat anybody."
Florida returns to its SEC schedule on Wednesday when its hosts Arkansas at 7 p.m.
“We needed this win to let us know, as a team, that we can do it,” Finney-Smith said. “We can get it done.”