Florida’s mystifying season of inconsistency continued Wednesday night at the O’Connell Center.
The Gators were done in by another second-half collapse in a 72-69 overtime loss that broke more than a few hearts on Valentine’s Day.
There was no magic this time from senior point guard Chris Chiozza, whose last gasp 3-point attempt to tie the game at the buzzer and force a second overtime clanged off the iron as time expired.
Florida (17-9, 8-5 SEC), which had won back-to-back games, suffered its fifth home loss of the season. But it was how the Gators self-destructed down the stretch that was most perplexing. Florida let an 11-point lead slip away in the final 10:05 and blew a seven-point lead in the final 1:23.
“That’s about as tough an ending to a game as I’ve experienced,” Florida coach Mike White said.
The most critical mistake, junior guard Jalen Hudson being called for a travel on an in-bounds play with Florida up 59-56 and 13.6 seconds left. That allowed Georgia a chance for a game-tying shot, and Yante Maten delivered with a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
“We’ve struggled getting the ball in bounds all year against pressure,” White said. “This team lacks physicality as we’ve talked about. We’re in a one-on-one situation with one of their perimeter guys. If we get the ball in bounds to one of our two 90-percent shooters, the game is over … an absolute lack of discipline that’s on me.”
As for Maten getting an open look to tie the game and send it into overtime.
“Lack of communication, which is what we’ve struggled with all year,” White said. “Tonight’s game was an example of who we are. There are some great teams in college basketball and a handful of good teams that are great certain nights and very average other nights, and that’s who we are, because of those areas, focus, communication, lack of communication, lack of physicality.”
In overtime, Florida missed 5 of its first 6 free throw attempts, including two straight by Chiozza, an 87.3 percent free throw shooter. The empty trips allowed Georgia to build a 66-60 lead in overtime on an inside layup by Maten, dunk by Derek Ogbeide and a 3-pointer from Tyree Crump. The six-point overtime lead was too much for UF to overcome.
Led by 23 points and 10 rebounds from Maten, Georgia (14-11, 5-8 SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak and 14-game losing streak at the O’Connell Center, winning its first game at UF since 2002. The Bulldogs swept the regular-season series for the first time since 1996-97.
Florida went close to eight minutes without a basket in the second half, allowing a 50-39 lead to whittle to 51-50 on an Ogbeide inside dunk with 3:33 left. The Gators were caught in a number of late shot situations in scoring just one point during a 7:29 stretch. Junior center Kevarrius Hayes was called for a pair of offensive fouls while redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett got called for basket interference on a putback attempt.
“They get into a great rhythm scoring in the block after making us defend for long periods and I was at a point where we needed to slow it down,” White said. “I was in fear we take a quick one and miss it, it’s going to be another Yante Maten layup, another Ogbeide layup, another Ogbeide putback. I thought we played tired in the second half offensively. I think Georgia had a lot to do that. It was our goal to make them guard a little bit as well.
“Again, I thought we had some stuff in the paint after we made them guard for certain lengths in the second half to where we just didn’t finish or get to the foul line.”
Forward Egor Koulechov appeared to save the day, converting a three-point play to put Florida up 54-50 with 2:36 left and a 3-pointer to give UF a 57-50 edge with 1:23 left, but Crump hit a 3-pointer to cut UF’s lead to 57-53, then Maten hit a 3-pointer to pull the Bulldogs within 59-56.
Koulechov and junior guard KeVaughn Allen led Florida with 19 points apiece. Freshman guard Mike Okauru added 14 points off the bench.
“This is probably the toughest loss that we’ve had all year because we felt like we were getting in a groove,” Koulechov said. “We’ve got to go back to the lab now and get the groove back again. That’s all we can do.”
Chiozza struggled, going 2 of 14 from the field and finishing with 5 points. Hudson, UF’s leading scorer at 15.7 points per game, went scoreless
“That’s not Chris Chiozza,” White said. “He wasn’t the only guy.”
Florida struggled from the field early, making 7 of its first 25 shots. But the Gators were able to sustain the defensive intensity they showed in clamping down South Carolina last Saturday.
After a Juwan Parker jumper put Georgia up 18-15, the Gators held Georgia scoreless for a 5:02 stretch during a 9-0 run. Allen’s first 3-pointer of the game tied the score at 18, while a transition layup by Stone off a steal from Koulechov put Florida up 22-18.
Florida then extended its lead to 24-18 on a pair of Stone free throws, but Georgia rallied, cutting UF’s lead to 24-23 on a three-point play from freshman forward Rayshaun Hammonds. Okauru, who provided another nice left off the bench with 9 points in the first half, sank a corner 3-pointer to put UF back up 27-23.
Allen was able to continue his strong play off the bench, finding sophomore center Gorjok Gak for an inside layup to put Florida up 29-25. Allen then made a pair of free throws after taking a hard foul along the sidelines, and made another 3-pointer to give Florida its biggest lead of the half, 34-25. The Gators took a 34-27 into halftime, overcoming shooting 32.3 percent from the field by limiting Georgia’s field goal percentage to 34.8 percent.
Florida dealt with foul trouble throughout the first half. Chiozza, junior center Kevarrius Hayes, redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett and Hudson each picked up two first-half fouls. By attacking the Gators inside throughout the half, Georgia got to the free throw line 14 times in the first half and drew 11 UF fouls.
|GEORGIA 72, FLORIDA 69, OT|
Maten 8-17 5-6 23, Claxton 1-1 0-0 2, Hammonds 3-8 4-5 10, Parker 3-11 4-5 10, Jackson 1-2 0-0 3, Ogbeide 5-7 0-3 10, Edwards 0-1 0-0 0, Diatta 0-3 1-3 1, Crump 3-7 4-5 13, Hightower 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 18-27 72.
Stone 2-7 3-4 7, Hayes 1-2 1-4 3, Chiozza 2-15 0-2 5, Hudson 0-3 0-2 0, Koulechov 5-8 6-7 19, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, Gak 1-2 0-0 2, Allen 6-14 4-4 19, Ballard 0-2 0-0 0, Okauru 5-6 2-4 14. Totals 22-59 16-27 69.
Halftime_Florida 34-27. End Of Regulation_Tied 59. 3-Point Goals_Georgia 6-18 (Crump 3-7, Maten 2-3, Jackson 1-2, Hammonds 0-1, Parker 0-2, Diatta 0-3), Florida 9-23 (Allen 3-5, Koulechov 3-5, Okauru 2-3, Chiozza 1-4, Ballard 0-1, Hudson 0-2, Stone 0-3). Fouled Out_Hudson. Rebounds_Georgia 42 (Ogbeide, Maten 10), Florida 33 (Hayes 7). Assists_Georgia 9 (Crump 5), Florida 10 (Chiozza 5). Total Fouls_Georgia 22, Florida 24. A_9,497 (10,133).