Up and down season continues for Florida
Published: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 5:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 5:12 p.m.
It's difficult to explain.
Just know this — don't take the Florida basketball team to Vegas.
They'd win big on the slots, but by the end of the night they'd be so down, they'd have to sell their shoes for cab fare.
That's the kind of team this is. Prosperity to the Gators is like garlic to a vampire.
They win at Tennessee. Yay.
They lose at home to South Carolina. Yuck.
It's difficult to explain how a team with a razor-thin margin for error can make so many of them.
"They brought it to us for 40 minutes," said guard Erving Walker. "We played for 20."
Why? Why would a team that has fought so hard to get to where it has this season come out with so little energy in the first half?
"It's something that has to change," Chandler Parsons said.
Something that apparently will not change — Florida's inability to shoot free throws. The Gators missed 10 Saturday, including their last five.
"I only have 20 hours a week with them," Billy Donovan said. "I wish I had more. I wish I had a magic potion to make Vernon Macklin shoot 90 percent. That's not going to happen."
Instead, look for Hack-a-Mack to continue as SEC play heats up. And Hack-a-Tyus and Hack-a-Parsons. They combined to make 6-of-14 free throws.
But the biggest miss came from the usually reliable Walker.
Florida had clawed its way back into a game it once trailed by 13 with three big 3-pointers. Down one with the ball and 1:09 to play, Walker drove into the lane and was shoved by South Carolina's Bruce Ellington. The foul was called, which in itself was just this side of a miracle. Walker shoved back, which the officials missed or chose to ignore.
Walker went to the line with a chance to give Florida the lead but missed the front end of the one-and-one.
"He needed to let that go," Donovan said of Walker's exchange with Ellington. "I think it bled into his free throw."
To make matters worse, South Carolina center Sam Muldrow made what had to be the shot Florida wanted most — a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left on the shot clock and 53 seconds left in the game.
"It wasn't designed to come to me," Muldrow said. "I was open so I shot it."
There's a reason, of course, why he was open. You don't expect a center to take a 3 when every second on the clock is so valuable.
But it went in.
Which brings us to the bottom line of Saturday's game.
Florida isn't a good enough team to play without an edge for one minute, let alone 20. Florida isn't good enough to let a game come down to free throws and inconsistent officiating. Florida can't give up 14 offensive rebounds and expect to win. And Florida is at its worst when things look their best.
It's not a matter of effort. It's not a matter of leadership. It's simply a matter of grasping what it takes to win games in this mediocre conference.
A team that lost to Furman beat Florida on Saturday, mainly because the Gators we saw against Jacksonville showed up for a half. This game was a take care of business game and Florida failed to do so.
Sure, the other guys made big shots.
Sure, the Gators missed too many free throws.
Sure, there were some bizarre no-calls.
But against a mediocre team, those things shouldn't have mattered.
"We just have to understand that every game means something," Parsons said.
A chance to enjoy prosperity.
Instead, it was another hangover.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.