GAINESVILLE — When you're defeating your SEC opponents at home by 24.3 points per game, it's possible to start to lose that competitive edge — particularly in the middle of games.
That's where the No. 3 Gators find themselves as they move out of January and into the February stretch that could define this season: undefeated in conference play and trying to remain hungry and aggressive as the better conference opponents await.
Worry about yourselves and your play. The rest will take care of itself.
In their latest effort Saturday afternoon, the Gators managed to do just that with a 69-36 victory over Texas A&M in the Aggies' first trip to the O'Connell Center. It was the fewest points the Aggies have scored in a game since Feb. 10, 1955, against Oklahoma City (34).
Florida extended its home winning streak to 27, 13 this season. The Gators are 19-2, only the third Florida team to hit that mark, joining the two national title teams, and 8-0 in the SEC.
"Not a lot of teams have the opportunity to be great," said sophomore guard Michael Frazier, the Tampa native who had 21 points and eight rebounds. "We feel like our team has the pieces to achieve greatness."
At the very least Saturday, it was very good. UF led 34-17 at halftime, despite going 1-for-12 from 3-point range in the first half. Florida senior center Patric Young, who celebrated his 22nd birthday, had a career-high 14 rebounds and nine points. The Gators outrebounded A&M 57-27.
"I thought he was great," Florida coach Billy Donovan said of Young. "His energy was very, very good. I told him I'm going to tell him every game is his birthday to get him to play like that."
While the offense struggled early, the Gators defense was stellar yet again, holding the Aggies (12-9, 3-5) to 25 percent shooting, 22 percent from 3-point range, and tying the fewest points UF has allowed in an SEC game since 1950. It was the eighth time this season Florida held an opponent to 21 points or fewer in the first half.
"No. 1, Florida's a great defensive team," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "We had our opportunities early to score, but not many."
Florida now moves into a stretch in which six of its 10 remaining conference opponents are in the top 56 in RPI.
"It only gets more and more challenging from here," Donovan said. "We just want our guys to continue to exert effort.
"I think that we have a group of guys who care. I don't think they are the kind of guys that want to let each other down, so they are going to work hard for themselves and one another."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]