Florida Gators stunned as trying season come to an end in upset loss to Oral Roberts
INDIANAPOLIS — The Florida Gators fell victim to Cinderella on Sunday night.
They looked well on their way to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2017, taking advantage of some bracket luck that had them facing No. 15 seed Oral Roberts instead of second-seeded Ohio State.
The Gators led for nearly 33 minutes of game time and the vast majority of the second half by as many as 11 points on multiple occasions. But ORU had a counterpunch for every blow the Gators delivered.
The Golden Eagles (18-10, 10-5 in Summit League) took their first lead of the second half on a layup with 2:46 left and finished the drill from there, ending the game on a 13-4 run to beat the Gators (15-10, 9-7 in SEC) 81-78 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
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“Congrats to Oral. They were terrific. What a story. They were good the other night, equally good…” UF coach Mike White said.
“I thought they showed tremendous resiliency defensively, getting stops when they needed to and getting defensive rebounds when they needed to.”
The Gators missed their final four shots and failed to score over the final 2:29 while ORU made five of its final six shots.
ORU continues its remarkable run, becoming the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 since Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 while the Gators’ season comes to a tough conclusion.
“There's a gospel hymn that says praise God from whom all blessings flow. It's a blessing to coach those guys in that locker room. It's a blessing to win,” ORU head coach Paul Mills said.
“The experience that these guys will have, and I don't mean to come across as if we're content, but I'm so happy for those players in that locker room.”
Turnovers doom the Gators
In many ways, the Gators played well enough to survive and advance.
They used their height advantage to thoroughly win the rebounding battle 37-24, made 55.2% of their shots and had 42 points in the paint to ORU’s 28.
One major factor, UF’s turnover issues, doomed their pursuit of snapping the program’s minor Sweet 16 drought.
The Gators, who entered Sunday averaging 14.4 turnovers per game, turned the ball over on 20 of their 69 possessions. These turnovers led to 23 ORU points.
“It destroyed us. It's been our biggest issue all year. I'm not sure that there's anything else that we could have tried in terms of motivation or film,” White said of the turnovers.
“You can't talk about it any more than we talked about it, working on it in practice. To me, it was a mentality that this team, unfortunately, never fully embraced the importance of each possession.”
Four different Gators had at least three turnovers. Colin Castleton led the way with five, but Tre Mann also had four.
More:Colin Castleton's impressive line a testament to Florida Gators' tenacity in NCAA Tournament
Florida can’t stop Abmas, Obanor
For the most part, it was two ORU players that did the damage against the Gators.
ORU sophomore point guard Max Abmas, the NCAA leader in points per game this season (24.4), again paved the way for the Golden Eagles.
He posted 26 points on 6 of 14 shooting and added seven assists and two rebounds.
However, another ORU player took perhaps an even larger role in the upset bid. Redshirt junior Kevin Obanor led the Golden Eagles with 28 points and added 11 rebounds. It was his second consecutive double-double after he had 30 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Buckeyes.
“Abmas and Obanor, I said it coming into the game, they're as good a one-two punch offensively as anyone we'll play all year,” White said.
“I think they have to be in the conversation nationally for just how elite they are.”
The rest of the ORU roster had a combined 27 points, but the Gators weren’t able to do quite well enough at taking away the Golden Eagles’ biggest weapons.
Mann and Locke not enough
It seemed for the majority of the game that a few Gators were going to will the team to victory.
Sophomore guard Tre Mann had 11 points in the opening half and then scored eight quick points in the first three minutes of the second half to get to 19. From there, however, he missed his final five shots and didn’t score any more points over the final 17:14 of the game.
“I just missed shots,” Mann said of his play down the stretch.
“Ran the same plays. I got the same shots. In the first half, I made some open looks. I just missed shots.”
Noah Locke added 17 points for the Gators on 7 of 11 shooting, but he managed just two points over the final 9:47 of the game.
The pair each hit three 3-pointers, but the rest of the Gators were a combined 1 of 7 from outside the arc. The team made just 31.8% of its 3-pointers.
Another major factor in the upset was the fact that ORU went to the free-throw line at a much higher clip than the Gators.
UF attempted just nine free throws in the loss. They made seven of those nine, but one of the misses was a critical miss on the front end of a one-and-one. ORU took its first lead of the half on the ensuing possession.
The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, went to the free-throw line 23 times, making 19 of them (82.6%). Abmas was a perfect 12 of 12 at the charity stripe and Obanor was 6 of 9.
• Florida closes its season with a 15-10 mark, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, one of six teams in the nation to earn an NCAA Tournament win in each of the last four tournaments (Florida State, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan, Villanova).
• The streak of four consecutive NCAA Tournaments with a win matches the longest in program history (2011-14).
• Tre Mann led the Gators with 19 points and added seven rebounds and four assists. Over his final seven games of the season, Mann averaged 20.9 points per game. He finishes his All-SEC sophomore campaign with a 16.0 scoring average, the highest points per game by a Gator since Nick Calathes averaged 17.2 in 2008-09.
Oral Roberts 81, Florida 78
ORAL ROBERTS (18-10)
Lacis 1-5 0-0 2, Obanor 9-16 6-9 28, Abmas 6-14 12-12 26, Jurgens 4-6 0-1 9, Thompson 4-7 0-0 9, Weaver 1-6 0-0 3, Stevens 1-3 1-1 4. Totals 26-57 19-23 81.
Castleton 5-6 4-4 14, Duruji 4-6 0-0 8, Appleby 5-11 3-3 14, Locke 7-11 0-0 17, Mann 8-16 0-1 19, Lewis 0-3 0-0 0, Osifo 1-1 0-1 2, Payne 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 32-58 7-9 78.
Halftime_Florida 42-37. 3-Point Goals_Oral Roberts 10-30 (Obanor 4-7, Abmas 2-7, Jurgens 1-2, Stevens 1-2, Thompson 1-4, Weaver 1-4, Lacis 0-4), Florida 7-22 (Locke 3-7, Mann 3-8, Appleby 1-4, Lewis 0-1, Duruji 0-2). Rebounds_Oral Roberts 20 (Obanor 11), Florida 34 (Castleton 10). Assists_Oral Roberts 12 (Abmas 7), Florida 12 (Appleby 5). Total Fouls_Oral Roberts 11, Florida 19.