Florida rallies to beat Missouri, 64-60

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Florida forward Isaiah Stokes shoots over Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon during Saturday's game at the O'Connell Center. (Lauren Bacho/The Gainesville Sun)

The shot went up from the lightly guarded player with a sweet, pure arc that headed right at the heart of Florida’s modest winning streak.

But these are the new-look Gators who keep finding different ways to win games. Jevon Pickett’s shot rimmed out with eight seconds to play, Florida rebounded and eventually finished off a physical Missouri team 64-60 Saturday as 10,450 watched at Exactech Arena.

“I clenched my gut,” Florida coach Mike White said of Pickett’s shot with the Gators up two points.

Pickett, who finished with 15 points, had an open look on the play, but after his miss Keyontae Johnson grabbed the rebound and shoveled the ball before he came down with it to deadly free-throw shooter KeVaughn Allen, who was fouled with 5.5 seconds to play.

Allen made both to wrap things up for the streaking Gators.

“Smart play,” White said of Johnson’s pass to Allen. “KeVaughn’s such a quiet guy I’m not sure he called for it.”

The Gators won despite a miserable first half, despite a bad start to the second half that saw them go down by 12 and despite making only three 3-point shots in the game.

On a day UF saluted the 1994 Final Four team, whose motto was “Find A Way”, this year’s edition continues to do the same thing in February — finding different ways to win.

Allen’s final free throws finished off a day where he scored 17 points despite missing all four of his 3-point attempts. On Wednesday, Allen scored 21 points in the second half and overtime. On Saturday, he had 14 after halftime.

“They were playing great defense,” said Allen. “It’s just been the second half lately.”

The Gators fell into a hole at the half trailing 33-24 and it only got worse in the second half. A 3 by Jordan Geist, who finished with 16 points, made it 40-28 Mizzou.

Florida slowly chipped into the lead (with the help of a technical on Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin), finally going in front on two free throws by Kevarrius Hayes with 4:55 to play.

Missouri (12-14, 3-11) scored only four points in the last 5:49 of the game and Florida made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch. The Gators finished the game shooting 25-for-30 from the line.

“We knew they were going to be physical on defense,” said White. “We needed to drive the ball. It was a point of emphasis heading into the game.”

Florida (16-11, 8-6) kept its momentum going in its quest for a third straight NCAA bid.

And one reason has been the play of the seniors coming down the stretch.

“It’s coming to an end. I want to give it everything I’ve got,” said senior Jalen Hudson.

Hudson has been a big part of this two-week run, scoring in double figures in four of his last five games. He had 11 Saturday with five rebounds.

“I would hope so,” White said when told of Hudson’s comments. “It’s the bottom of the ninth for the seniors. For all of our guys, especially our seniors, they should be as urgent as they’ve ever been.”

Florida got 13 points from freshman Keyontae Johnson, who had seven rebounds and has had at least seven in eight of the 11 games he has started. They also got a solid effort from Isaiah Stokes, who had six points in the first half.

So with contributions coming from a number of players, the Gators are piecing together a team that once appeared broken, one game over .500 and sliding fast.

The new Gators showed their physical side by getting to the free throw 30 times.

“Our team has avoided contact at times (this season),” White said. “It’s been a struggle to generate physicality and find ways to get to the line. To win a little bit differently I think is a nice step to see and the rate we converted was a big factor for us.”

Florida is back on the road Wednesday, traveling to face Vanderbilt at 9 p.m. in Nashville. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. Florida beat Vandy 66-57 at home on Feb. 13.

FLORIDA 64, MISSOURI 60
MISSOURI (12-14)

Puryear 1-2 1-2 3, Tilmon 3-5 2-2 8, Pickett 6-14 2-3 15, Geist 7-17 1-1 16, Pinson 1-3 2-2 5, Santos 0-0 0-0 0, Mi.Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Nikko 2-3 0-1 4, Suggs 0-1 0-0 0, Watson 3-10 0-2 9. Totals 23-55 8-13 60.

FLORIDA (16-11)

Johnson 4-8 4-6 13, Hayes 2-4 4-5 8, Locke 1-6 0-0 3, Nembhard 0-1 4-4 4, Allen 4-10 9-10 17, Bassett 0-0 2-2 2, Stokes 3-7 0-0 6, Okauru 0-0 0-0 0, Hudson 4-7 2-3 11. Totals 18-43 25-30 64.

Halftime_Missouri 33-24. 3-Point Goals_Missouri 6-21 (Watson 3-9, Pinson 1-2, Pickett 1-5, Geist 1-5), Florida 3-15 (Johnson 1-2, Hudson 1-3, Locke 1-5, Nembhard 0-1, Allen 0-4). Fouled Out_Pinson, Tilmon. Rebounds_Missouri 28 (Pickett, Nikko 6), Florida 23 (Johnson 7). Assists_Missouri 10 (Pinson 3), Florida 8 (Nembhard 4). Total Fouls_Missouri 24, Florida 14. Technicals_Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin.

41 COMMENTS

  1. I called it a trap game and we certainly played like it was one, except we WON! Gutsy, physical and as hard to watch as a solar eclipse, but we won. TCU beat #19 Iowa State, and Lunardi has the Frogs as a 10 seed along with UF today, but those Frogs have plagued the Cyclones their last 4 meetings, so maybe that’s the only ranked team they can beat. Anyway, getting past this trap may be the final piece in gaining enough momentum and confidence to take care of Vandy and UGA, then who knows with LSU at home. But I have always hated it that we almost always play at UK on their senior day. I can only hope we can make their fans hurt their butt cheeks sitting on the edge while bloodying their blue fingernails, maybe taking it to OT. BTW, did anybody see Tilman flip the bird at our student section when he fouled out? Clearly he is not related to our Sonny. Go Gators! It’s time for my blood pressure medication.

    • You’re right, Phil; it was hard to watch. A lethargic start and lots of missed shots made it seem like there was a letdown after Wednesday night’s big road win. A loss today would’ve been demoralizing, deflating, and destructive to their tourney chances. Fortunately, they did just enough to win and avoid all that damage. Hope they come out with greater urgency and avoid a slow start in Nashville. Locke is really struggling shooting. Gonna need a little more from him. Didn’t see Mr. Tilmon’s finger.

  2. If it’s ’94 or ’19, that’s how Gator boys grind to get a much-needed win.

    UF played in a disciplined and business-like manner, despite trailing most of the game Just what I want to see from a team securing a tourney spot in late February.

    Go Gators!

  3. This felt like so many of the Gators’ disappointing losses this year…in reverse. Missouri dominated a superior team for much of the game, looking ready to steal one from the Gators. Then they came back to earth, allowing the better team enough time to right the ship and take control. Florida has lost a lot of games playing the role of Missouri. So exciting to see the script flipped and the Gators staying calm and playing with confidence after a miserable first half.

    • Allen has taken all of his charity tosses in the O’Dome this year. Thinks it’s over 50 inna row now. And the Tiger dude suffering the most absolutely did flip us off. I always record our games just in case something comes up and I have to gosave my family or Weeki Wachee mermaids, etc. I actually rewound and paused to see his middle finger pointing at our fans on the other side of the floor. I’m beginning to dislike Missouri but much in a different way than UGA or FSU. Somehow, they just don’t feel like an SEC team like A & M more recently or the Hawgs and ‘Cocks.

  4. What happened to all the negativity on here? What a difference four consecutive wins have made. The Gators are on a mission. White has them winning with guard play and super defense and no quit. Any coach would be hard pressed to win in the SEC with a small lineup but the Gators are fighters and play unselfish and tough. That reflects good coaching. Whether they keep their streak alive or not, it won’t be because they lack heart. Barring the unexpected, when all is said and done they could surprise some of their naysayers who were claiming on here that UF is an NIT team at best. Well they forgot about the f-t lady singing thing. Go Gators!🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊

    • Before the Bama win, they did appear like a team that didn’t care, PERIOD. Now they care! White or something, finely turned the switch. I got home and only watched the last 12 minutes yesterday…a totally different team character from a month ago. Even Hudson and Allen are now running around trying hard. Allen is the coolest free-throw guy at the end of these last games, clutch.

    • Like BSCE1981 said before the Alabama game all those “naysayers” comments which are actually just people expressing their opinion were valid because we weren’t playing that well. Even in this game in the first half we did come out ready to play with intensity which is on our coach as how many times could we say that when Billy D, Spurrier, Meyer were coaching and now when Mullen is coaching. It wasn’t really an issue. For whatever reason things have changed and it’s great to see.

      • Before the Bama game, they played 3 of the best teams in the conference, two of which are potential 1 seeds, and two of those games were on the road. They played both UK and UT tough to the final minute(s). Losing to those teams isn’t necessarily an indicator of a lack of effort or desire. This team is offensively challenged with inconsistent shooting and virtually no post game, but effort hasn’t been a big problem. Sometimes fans have a tendency to equate good effort and desire with winning and the lack thereof with losing. That’s not always the case.

        • I meant in this game only not the other games. My post did not say other wise so I don’t know why you would say that. I guess you were actually referring to BSCE1981. We have turned it up even more since Alabama defensively and especially offensively. We are not a great team so we have to play with maximum effort starting on defense and we did not do that in this game in the beginning and it almost cost us the game but thankfully it didn’t.

          • Yes, actually I was referring to BSCE1981’s comment, Steve, just chose to reply to yours, because you referenced it, too. No ill will toward any fellow Gator intended. I just think we sometimes associate “desire” and “heart”, or the lack of them, more closely than we should with winning and losing. That’s what I felt his comment was doing, where yours was merely defending a fan’s right to be critical and pointing out the accuracy of some of the negative comments.

            That said, I agree with you that they came out flat against MO and appeared to maybe have a letdown from the two big road wins. I think this team needs a guy who plays with some edginess and anger like Alex Faedo and Brady Singer brought to the baseball team.

        • They did play UT and UK close for 90% of the game, then fated late in each. In each case, we got punched out in the last 5 minutes by better teams. That’s the difference between good teams and mediocre teams. The ability to FINISH the task. We didn’t have the muscle to finish. At least Williams/UT finally got called on a hit and lost the game, Saturday, for the Vols. What goes around, comes around, sometimes. Again, I’m not a “basketball guy”, because I don’t understand how “big men” are allowed to just charge ahead with their muscle and get fouled? Williams constantly attempts to charge between planted guys and doesn’t get called?

          • I don’t disagree, BSCE, and I wasn’t trying to suggest that the Gators were/are good. I’d agree that they were mediocre up until the Bama game, and I’d say that even now they can’t afford to have an off game, because they can’t beat very many teams with much less than their A game. It’s just that while I’ve seen them play poorly this year (understatement), I haven’t seen a game where I thought they didn’t care.

            Regarding big guys and charges, I think the guys like Williams, who have the reputations as the best players in the conference, will always get the benefit of the whistle from the refs. Although basketball isn’t a collision sport like football, it is a contact sport, and sometimes there’s so much contact between the big men it’s hard to figure what the refs are gonna call and what they’re gonna let slide. It’s probably hard for the refs themselves to figure out what they should and shouldn’t call. These athletes are so big, strong and fast, and everything happens so quickly that I wouldn’t want to be the guy making the calls. When a guy like Williams tries to split a double team, the ref has to decide if the contact constitutes a foul, and if so, did Williams lower his shoulder and initiate the contact himself, or did one of the defenders create the contact by moving into him. Tough call to make a lot of times.

            Hope the Gators can maintain this momentum and make the Dance. Go Gators!

    • Here’s a little negativity for you prairie. For 2/3 of a game against a sub 500 team, this Gator team looked like it didn’t want to win. It wasn’t until they turned on their “physicality,” drove to the basket and made their foul shots that they turned it around.

      This Gator edition is much like the 93-94 team they celebrated yesterday. They must give full effort for 40 minutes and get “physical” to win games. They won’t win too many more down the stretch by just pulling up and shooting threes.

      I hope this win helps reinforce that concept with this team, especially with the seniors, who have the responsibility to lead.

      Go Gators!!!

    • ” ‘Find A Way’, this year’s edition continues to do the same thing in February — finding different ways to win.” -Gatorsports.com
      So ‘IF’ U.F. Basketball continues to ”find ways to win” then the NIT talk, esp. mine, will subside, no doubt! But if any of you think these Gators are ”court commanders,” driving up and down the court in a brilliant display of basketball, well then, you’re sadly deceiving yourselves. This team ”found a way to win,” at home, against a bottom-dweller in the SEC. And what? We’re supposed to gush compliments and favor upon them for doing ”what they should do this time of year?” Like I said, keep ”finding ways to win,” much like the ’94 Gator Basketball team, and we’ll be damn happy in Gator Nation.
      Go Gators!

      • There is always a guy who rains on everyone’s parade and you fit the mold perfectly. This team has three freshmen starters who are not in the class of those recruited by Kentucky and Duke but they are finding different ways to win games and that’s all I care about.

    • Hind sight is 20/20…I guess. I don’t remember Prairiegator saying definitively that the Gators were NCAA bound when they slipped to 12-11. The fact of the matter is this team did lose a lot of leads at the end of games throughout the season. Just because some fans voice frustration at that doesn’t make it untrue. With the exception of the Mike Winter/Black JuJu types, everyone on here is really rooting for the Gators. I recall laying out exactly what was needed to get the Gators into the NCAA which included one win in the SEC tourney, sweeping the bottom feeders and getting one of the LSUx2/UK games. Hopefully that’s what they do…they are certainly off to a great start! And if they don’t it will likely be due to their thin front court. Again, just the truth. I’ll also say that UF didn’t match Mizzou’s intensity during the first 25 minutes of the game…but they did when it counted. I’d rather be called a “naysayer” than the self-righteous type who metes out their approval for others to view their opinions while being blind to inconvenient truths. Do you think Mike White didn’t tell the team they needed to turn the notch up a couple of clicks on the intensity dial during his halftime speech? Would Mike White be a naysayer if he said something like that? It ain’t always rosebuds and candy corn.

      • Wadeless…Just so you know, I commented on January 24th when several posters were branding UF as “less than an average team.” I shared my opinion then and it hasn’t changed. Quoting: …”The Gators have been in a lot of close games this year against a number of top-tier teams and definitely looked better than average in those contests even though in every game they have overcome shortages in the front court. They have also played one of the toughest slates of competition and have a winning record. They have the best defense in the SEC which alone means they are not an average team.” I have made no predictions; that is true. But I continue to see plenty of to like in this group and their coach and still believe they deserve a lot of credit for their character and fight. My comments were in line with anything else I’ve posted I’m pretty sure. If it makes me “self righteous” to call out the nay sayers at an opportune time, oh well, it’s all good.

  5. The fact is though, that complaining on here and stating that coaches aren’t good coaches, and that players don’t have the desire to win or play hard, is basically an opinion of a poster. It has no factual basis. Losing a lead at the end of the game doesn’t mean you cant coach or play, it simply means the other team did a better job. Go Gators….keep. proving the naysayers wrong!!

  6. Let’s give this Gator team the benefit of the doubt. They have amply demonstrated over the last 4 months that they have a very thin, injury prone front court and unspectacular 3-point shooting. If there’s ever been a Gator team that must “ Find a Way” every night, it’s this one.

    It’s understandable that this type of physical effort has to be saved up for the last few games and, hopefully, March Madness. Here’s to hoping that the Gator team we saw during the final 15 minutes of yesterday’s game is the Gator team we get to see the rest of this season, no matter how far they go in March.

    Go Gators!!!