Gators doomed by turnovers in loss to Arizona

Florida coach Billy Donovan argues a call on Friday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Monday, December 17, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 11:38 p.m.

TUCSON, Ariz. — No. 5 Florida’s numbing last-second loss to No. 8 Arizona was easy to explain.

Florida’s inability to close out the end of the first of the half and the end of the game proved costly in its 65-64 last-second loss to the Wildcats at the McKale Center.

The Gators were outscored a combined 15-0 in the final 1:19 of the first half and 57 seconds of the second half. During both ill-fated stretches, the Gators combined to commit five turnovers and only got one shot attempt to the basket.

“Turnovers allowed them to come back in transition.,” Florida junior center Patric Young said. “That’s what really gave them the advantage. We turned the ball over a lot. It’s just pretty easy for a team to get some easy baskets and allowing them to get easy baskets allowed them to stay in the game. And they kept fighting to the end.”

With Florida up 32-21 and 1:43 left, Arizona guard Nick Johnson stole the ball from Young and hit a deep 3-pointer to cut UF’s lead to 32-24. After a Kenny Boynton miss, Johnson knocked down another 3-pointer in transition to cut UF’s lead to 32-27.

Florida could have gone into halftime at least up by 5 and up by as many as 7 points. But Boynton dribbled the ball off his leg with 5 seconds remaining. Arizona forward Solomon Hill stole the ball and hit a breakaway dunk, cutting UF’s lead to 32-29 at halftime.

“Going into the end of the first half and the end of the second half, we did a bad job giving away seven points,” said Florida senior guard Mike Rosario, who led the Gators with 16 points. “I guess that hurt us a lot.”

Of the three turnovers at the end of the second half, two came on in-bounds plays and one came on Boynton’s inability to get the ball upcourt and break Arizona’s press. Overall, Arizona scored 16 points off Florida’s 14 turnovers. Florida’s three seniors (Boynton 3, Rosario 3 and Erik Murphy 5) combined for 11 of UF’s 14 turnovers.

“We couldn’t handle their press that well and it cost us the game,” Young said.

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