GAINESVILLE | The Florida State basketball team wasn’t about to let the football team have all the fun when it comes to playing the University of Florida.
Dominating inside and on the boards, the taller, deeper and swifter Seminoles won a program-record fourth consecutive game against the fifth-ranked Gators, 83-66 on Monday in front of 10,425 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The game was nine days after the FSU football team beat UF for the fifth time in a row, across the street at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The ‘Noles (7-0) are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season, when they won their only ACC championship. UF (5-2) has lost its last two games.
“Beating Florida is important to everyone, especially back home in Tallahassee,” said junior guard Terance Mann, who had a career-high 25 points and added eight rebounds. “We can walk around with some pride that basketball and football beat Florida.”
Mann scored nine of his points during a span of 1:09 midway through the first half, then had an offensive rebound tap-in, a three-point play and a layup during a span of 2:10 in the second half that helped put the game away.
“I just saw some opportunities and took advantage of them,” Mann said.
Senior forward Phil Cofer, who along with foward Brandon Allen are the only players on the team to have been in uniform for all four victories over the Gators, said stopping the nation’s top-scoring team from running off points in batches was the key.
“It’s a rivalry game and we knew there would be some adversity,” said Cofer, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds. “They’re definitely a great team and the key was stopping then in transition.”
C.J. Walker added 17 points and four assist for the ‘Noles.
Jalen Hudson, who called the loss, “super-humbling,” recovered from a two-point first half to lead the Gators with 16 points, KeVaughn Allen had 15 and Egor Koulechov had 11, but made only 1 of 7 3-point attempts.
“We played aggressive, with enthusiasm and toughness,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It was because of our respect for the University of Florida because if you don’t contest every shot, fight on the boards and give a tremendous effort, something bad will happen. We played exceptionally well and Florida didn’t play as well as they’re capable. You have those nights. We’ve had plenty of them.”
Florida was averaging 99.5 points per game but scored its fewest points of the season. The Gators shot only 36 percent overall, made 6 of 25 3-point attempts (24 percent) and had only one fast-break basket.
FSU didn’t shoot much better — 39 percent from the floor and 7 of 23 on 3-point attempts. But their height advantage across the board enabled them to out-score the Gators 36-20 in the paint, 24-8 on second chance baskets and 19-9 off turnovers.
The Seminoles out-rebounded Florida 51-34, and more than doubled the number of offensive rebounds, 23-11.
With last year’s best enforcer inside, John Egbunu, not due back until January because of a knee injury he suffered last season, there’s not much coach Mike White said he can do on nights when the Gators don’t shoot lights-out — as they did when they scored 100 or more points in four of their five victories.
“I don’t know … I don’t know what to say,” White said when asked if he could do anything improve the team’s rebounding. “It’s not our strength. Having Egbunu healthy … that would help. But this doesn’t happen to last year’s team. It was a lot tougher. We’re more skilled. We score better. But outscoring people … that’s who we are. We’re not nearly as tough, reliable, accountable and gritty.”
Koulechov said the Gators were too over-confident after beating Gonzaga and Stanford, and taking top-ranked Duke to the limit before losing by three points in the Phil Knight Invitational.
“It’s a reality check,” he said. “I think maybe we felt too good about ourselves coming back from Portland. I think this is where we need to get back together as a team … work hard and get mentally tougher and find other ways to win because we’re not going to be hitting 15 3s every game.”