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Gators Top Memphis in Jimmy V Classic

gatorstigers-wrThe first game of the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Cincinnati Bearcats was a snoozer. The second contest between the Florida Gators and Memphis Tigers was just the opposite. The two teams combined to score almost twice as many points as there was in the first game of the doubleheader from Madison Square Garden. Cincinnati handed Pitt their first loss of the season in a 44-43 tractor pull that put the crowd to sleep.

But the Gators and Tigers entertained the crowd for 40:00 as the Gators led most of the night, but never by double figures. They dominated the Tigers on the glass, out-rebounding them 31-22,  but their 17 turnovers negated the advantage. Both teams shot well over their free throw average as the Tigers connected on 15-18 from the line while the Gators hit 14-19. But it was two big misses in the final minute, one by Dorian-Finney Smith and one by Scottie Wilbekin that gave the Tigers a chance to tie the game on the final possession, but Finney-Smith made up for his free throw miss by blocking Joe Jackson’s layup attempt just before the buzzer.

The Gators were led by Casey Prather with 22 points and Finney-Smith with 14. The Tigers were led by Jackson with 17 points as five of them finished with double figures. Florida was 28-54 from the floor while Memphis was 27-57. The Gators were 7-16 from three points while the Tigers went 6-18. That’s about as close as it gets.

The win gives the Gators three quality non-conference wins including two in a row. They have beaten the Kansas Jayhawks and now the Tigers who were both ranked in the Top 25. They also have close road losses at the Wisconsin Badgers and a buzzer-beater to the unbeaten UConn Huskies. They also have a one point win over a tough Florida State Seminoles team that has a blowout win over the VCU Rams, a double overtime loss to the Michigan Wolverines and who blew out the Charlotte 49ers on Tuesday.

The win would have been another resume builder for the Tigers who have a big win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but their next best win is probably over the LSU Tigers. They will have some opportunities in conference play with games coming up with the Bearcats, Louisville Cardinals, Temple Owls  and UConn. They also still have the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the schedule in non-conference play.

So both of these teams appear to be headed to a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Both will be battle-tested once they get there. A Final Four meeting between them would be a lot of fun. They way they looked on Tuesday it could very well happen. If it does, hopefully we get a game as exciting as this one was. 

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