The distance from the O’Connell Center to Mizzou Arena is 1,008 miles.
It felt like Missouri scored a three for every mile the Gators traveled for Saturday night’s tilt.
The Tigers were lethal from downtown in a 91-75 win over the Gators. They made 12 of their 19 three-point attempts and converted on 62 percent of their field goals in the victory.
The blowout loss brought whatever momentum UF had through the first two games of conference play to a screeching halt.
The 91 points the Tigers scored were the most the Gators (10-5, 2-1 SEC) had given up in regulation not only all season but since a 96-91 loss to LSU in coach Mike White’s first season in Gainesville.
The first half was a nightmare from the very beginning for Florida. It began the game 1-for-12 shooting from the field, with its only saving graces coming from the free-throw line. The Gators shot just 31 percent from the field in the half.
Forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. was the only UF player with double-digit points in the first half, and only guard Scottie Lewis had more than six.
On the other hand, Missouri (9-6, 1-2 SEC) couldn’t miss from anywhere on the court. After a 1-for-7 start, the Tigers nailed 15 of their next 19 shots from the field, including five threes. Missouri went 8 for 11 beyond the arc as a team.
Missouri’s hot shooting and Florida’s early offensive struggles resulted in a 51-36 lead for the Tigers at halftime. Guards Dru Smith and Mark Smith led the Tigers in the first half with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
In the second half, Florida’s offense did its best to get back into the game. It hit four of its first five shots, with three of them coming from behind the arc.
But ultimately, the Gators just couldn’t string together stops defensively. Missouri’s best three-point-shooting performance heading into this game was a 51.6-percent effort against Chicago State, a school that one would have to look up to see if it both exists and has a Division-I basketball team.
Against Missouri, Florida might as well have been Chicago State with a better offense. Any time that it looked like the Gators were gaining any traction, Missouri answered with at least one make from downtown, usually uncovered.
Four Missouri players ended the game with double-digit points, led by Dru Smith’s 22.
The closest the Gators came to staging another miraculous comeback was when freshman Tre Mann scored on a jump shot to reduce the lead to 11.
Blackshear Jr. was one of very few redeeming aspects about Florida’s play on Saturday. The senior scored 22 points, snagged four rebounds and drained a pair of threes in 30 minutes of playing time. Guard Noah Locke shot 4 for 6 from the field, all of them coming from three-point land. He also had four defensive rebounds.
The Gators also struggled with turnovers, committing 14 of them, the most they have had since turning the ball over 14 times against Marshall on Nov. 29. Missouri made the most of those turnovers by scoring 17 points.
The loss turns an already long trip back home to Gainesville into an even longer one. Florida will need to recollect its composure ahead of a matchup against Ole Miss and a grueling three-game stretch against No. 8 Auburn, LSU and No. 4 Baylor.
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