Gators have no answers for Michigan offense
Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 10:28 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Kenny Boynton and Patric Young had been pulled from a game that had been reduced to garbage time. They stood at the end of the bench, watching their teammates finish out a blowout.
They had been in this situation so many times before, just not on this end of it.
On a day when Florida had a chance to reach the Final Four, the Gators collapsed in a pool of lazy passes, empty possessions and missed chip shots.
“There's no easy exit out of the tournament,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
But Michigan made it look easy. Florida kept clanging shots and Michigan kept making them. Especially Nik Stauskas, who was draining 3-point shots as the lead grew.
“The shooter, I can't pronounce his name, but we gave him open looks and he made us pay,” Boynton said.
This was a game Florida wasn't going to grind out. This was a game where Florida had to match offense with offense. Michigan was going to score points. Florida allowed 53.7 points during the first 36 games and allowed 54 with 15 minutes remaining in the second half in this one.
It got away from the Gators early. They looked tight to start the game. Maybe it was the memory of losing Elite Eight games the last two seasons. Maybe they were worn out from the late Friday game. Michigan looked like a team with nothing to lose.
“Whether or not we were starry-eyed, I can't put my finger on it because these guys have been in this situation before,” Donovan said. “Sometimes you can want something too bad.”
For the three seniors, it was especially numbing to have their season end this way, with a 20-point loss when the Final Four was so close.
And nobody feels worse today than Erik Murphy.
Murphy picked a bad time to play what was probably the worst game of his career. He went 0-of-11 with three turnovers. For Florida to have had a chance to beat a team with the offensive skills of Michigan, it couldn't have Murphy throwing up a bagel.
In the end, this was a game between NBA players and college players and the NBA talent won.
Trey Burke set everything up and Florida was so concerned with him they over-rotated defensively and left Stauskas open. Florida was better defensively in the second half and made an 8-0 run to pull within 11 points early in the half.
Because Michigan doesn't defend the lane very well, the Gators were able to drive the middle. They just didn't finish enough plays.
And that brief glimpse of hope was soon wiped away.
“You've got to make some plays around the basket,” Donovan said. “You've got to put the ball in the basket.”
Any time a season ends in a loss — and almost all of them do — it's easy to look at the flaws of a group of college kids. It's easier to remember the blown leads than the blowouts. It's easier to remember the misses than the makes. It's easier to point to what they didn't do rather than what they did do.
This was a really good basketball team. It was flawed, just like the four who are still playing. But it was really good. If I had told you before the season that this Gator team would win the SEC championship, play for the SEC Tournament championship and be one of the last eight teams playing, you probably would have taken it.
But nobody feels like looking back at the good times on the morning after a bad time. It's simply the nature of the beast.
And so we say goodbye to Kenny and Murph and Rosie (Mike Rosario). Florida fell short of the ultimate goal, but these player should only be remembered with great fondness.
We know that how you do in the NCAA Tournament defines a team, whether it's fair or not. To define this team based on one really bad day is a joke.
“There's a lot of really good things these kids have done,” Donovan said. “I wish they could walk out of that locker room and say we played our very best game, did our best and came up short.”
This exit wasn't like the previous two from the Elite Eight. Those were heartbreaking.
This one was just sad.
“We weren't that close here today,” Donovan said. “This game ... we didn't deserve to win the game.”
That doesn't make it any less painful.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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