Tigers claw past Gators
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:53 a.m.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — This one had the feel of so many late meltdowns past. More missed free throws. More challenged off-balanced 3-point shot attempts. More defensive breakdowns at the worst possible times.
Who: Arkansas at UF
When: 7 p.m. on Saturday
Like “Groundhog Day,” Florida is reliving the same heartbreaking ending over and over again. This time, the No. 5 Gators failed to hold a 13-point, second-half lead in a 63-60 loss to Missouri that, like Arizona, was winnable with a few more smart decisions and clutch shots.
Or even a few more free throws. The Gators were 6-of-12 from the line for the game, which included three missed front ends of one-and-ones in the final 10 minutes. Junior center Patric Young missed two of them and Scottie Wilbekin missed one, leaving six potential points on the table.
Still, Florida had a chance, down 61-60 with the ball and 19.1 seconds left. But after a Billy Donovan timeout, senior Kenny Boynton jacked up a challenged, off-balance three-point attempt. Florida failed to corral an offensive rebound. Missouri senior Keion Bell was fouled with 3.1 seconds left and made both free throws.
Florida in-bounded the ball quickly and was able to get Mike Rosario an open 3-point look at the buzzer. But Rosario air-balled a shot that could have tied the game.
After the game, Donovan said Boynton's shot was not what he wanted coming out of the timeout.
“We would have liked to have some action inside, a drive to the basket,” Donovan said. “I thought Scottie may have given up the ball a little too quickly. I thought we had more time for a play to develop.”
Boynton said he felt like he had a good look.
“I put a shimmy move on and created some space,” Boynton said. “The shot just didn't fall.”
Asked if there was a lane to drive to the basket, Boynton responded: “That could have been an option. Who knows? That's something we may have look at for the next game, to try to get fouled.”
Rosario, who led Florida with 14 points, said he would “live and die” with Boynton taking a shot with the game on the line.
“I've seen him make so many of those before,” Rosario said.
But Donovan said it wasn't “one shot, one play” that caused the Gators to get outscored 27-11 in the final 10:51. Florida also failed to hold a 13-point lead in the second half earlier this season at Arizona. And the Gators failed to hold 11-point leads in the second half of back-to-back Elite Eight losses to Butler and Louisville.
“If we can't close out games, it's going to continue to haunt us,” Rosario said. “We need to learn from this and get better.”
Donovan particularly was upset that the Gators were outrebounded 40-28, had no second-chance points and were outscored 24-16 in the paint. With Florida up 57-53, the Gators had a chance to get the ball back with 3:13 left after a missed Phil Pressey jumper. But Young failed to keep his balance on a rebound attempt and was called for a questionable travel. Off the in-bounds play, Jabari Brown hit a 3-pointer to cut Florida's lead to 57-56.
“We had no inside presence,” Donovan said.
Laurence Bowers, who didn't play in UF's 31-point win over Missouri at the O'Connell Center a month ago, led Missouri with 17 points. Brown added 12 points for the Tigers (19-7, 8-5 SEC), who improved to 15-0 at home
After a Bowers inside basket cut Florida's lead to 34-32, the Gators (21-4, 11-2) responded with a 15-4 run. Michael Frazier II, Erik Murphy and Rosario all hit 3-pointers during the flurry. Rosario's 3-pointer put Florida up 48-36, and Wilbekin made one of two free throws to extend UF's lead to 49-36.
But Missouri charged back with a 12-0 run, which started with back-to-back 3-pointers from Brown and Earnest Ross. Bowers ended the run with a dunk, which cut Florida's lead to 49-48.
“Our defensive intensity wasn't where it needed to be,” Donovan said. “I know we are playing short-handed right now (without Will Yeguete) but we have to deal with the hand we've been dealt and be able to play through fatigue.”
Missouri's heckling student section highlighted a near capacity crowd at Mizzou Arena. But the Gators weren't intimidated early. Florida made 4 of its 6 3-point attempts, jumping to a 16-6 lead on a 3-pointer from Frazier.
The Gators extended their lead to 25-16 on a 3-pointer from Boynton. From there, though, the Gators went cold, missing their final seven 3-point attempts of the first half. The Gators couldn't get any early inside production from Young, who was in foul trouble throughout the first half. Young picked up his second foul with 3:56 left and sat for the rest of the half.
Florida also received a scare when Murphy took a blow to the back of the neck on a scramble for a loose ball under Missouri's basket. Murphy had to be helped off the court by trainer Dave Werner, but returned to the court when Young picked up his second foul.
After a pair of Frazier free throws put Florida up 29-18, Missouri closed the half with an 8-0 run. Brown started the run with a deep 3-pointer, and Bowers followed with an inside basket to cut Florida's lead to 29-23.
Up 29-24 with 1:03 left, Florida had another costly turnover when Rosario was caught napping on a pass attempt. Bell came up with the steal and breakaway layup, cutting UF's lead to 29-26 at halftime.
The Gators shot just 37.9 percent from the floor and 27.9 percent (5-of-17) from 3-point range. Defensively, Florida forced 12 first-half turnovers and held Missouri to 42.3 percent and 20 percent from 3-point range.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.