So the Hogs are on a roll. I was still getting over the much more impressive Mississippi State spanking when the Gators came to Bud Walton. The Hogs have never looked more like a bunch of seniors — mostly because fresh-faced Florida consists mainly of kids nowhere near drinking age. At times, we made them look more like refugees from a boy band than a Division I basketball team. And lucky for us, N’Sync couldn’t hit the side of a barn from beyond the arc.
Sonny Weems is shaping up to be the star we always knew he could be, and the Ervin-to-Hill alley oops had us looking like we might be getting our act together in transition. The relatively quiet play from Darian Townes has me worried. If he comes out strong off the bench while the rest of the guys are on fire, we’ll be unstoppable.
But we’re not there yet. Florida gave us a lot of trouble in the second half, though we maintained a consistent lead. You can’t emphasize enough the importance of our three-point shooting in both of these wins, and as the Gators showed last Saturday, that well can run dry without warning.
Billy Donovan proved every bit as classy as the relentless coverage of his tight relationship with Coach Pelphrey would have you believe. I remember watching his gracious post-game interview after a hard-earned overtime victory against Kentucky and thinking as much. Still, it’s easy to stay classy when Donovan knows that this newfound rivalry will be flipped on its head as early as next year, when Pel is left with only Beverly and Washington to anchor his starting lineup.
I’m not at all sure what to expect from the Rebels, a team that went to Knoxville and played a very close game against the 19-2 Vols before coming up one miracle short in the final seconds. Our big men are going to have to make like Olivia Newton John and get physical with senior center Dwayne Curtis, who’s a rebounding and scoring machine. Maybe Sonny Weems’ hand will stay every bit as hot, but if we don’t protect the ball and make our free throws we’re more likely to shoot ourselves in the foot than shoot ourselves to a win.
We really need this win before going on the road against Tennessee and Mississippi State. Tennessee’s Tyler Smith is just hitting his stride as one of the best players in the country, and Mississippi State will be looking for revenge against the team that embarrassed them only two weeks back. If we stay strong against Ole Miss at home, then we can afford to drop one of these tough road games in Starkville or Knoxville and still look sharp for the tourney. But if we drop that very winnable game, we’ll need to post a W in both ‘villes, and I don’t like our chances.