The Florida Gators (21-4) met their demise again on the road, this time against the Missouri Tigers (19-7). A team Florida handled a few weeks ago gave the Gators their best shot and Florida just didn’t have it in them when it mattered the most, falling 63-60.
For the Gators, the numbers are telling, -8 margin in second chance points, outrebounded 40-28, and 14 turnovers all conspired in Florida’s downfall. The most telling number however, was 33.
That is the number of three pointers Florida attempted tonight, and while it is true that they took 30 Saturday against Auburn, the difference is that last weekend, the shots were falling from beyond the arc, last night, that was not the case. The Gators, who only made 10 of the 33 threes, relied to heavily on their long-range game and failed to adapt. In the first half they shot just 29.4% from beyond the arc, but kept shooting from outside time and time again. In comparion, the Gators attempted just 21 two-point shots on the night.
Florida watched a 13 point lead evaporate as the Tigers roared to life thanks to the efforts of Laurence Bowers, who had a game high 17 points, as well as several others. The lack of offensive efficiency for Florida was particularly frustrating for a team that typically exhibits such effective offensive balance.
Florida’s big men were non-existent on the interior of the offensive end. Patric Young had two points and one offensive rebound; those two points happened 1:02 into the second half.
His running mate in the front-court Erik Murphy, did have eight points, but six of them came from three-point land, so he matched Young for production inside.
Florida’s reliance on the outside shot was most telling when they desperately needed it. Trailing Mizzou by one, Kenny Boynton released a rushed errant 25 footer that all but sealed the Gators’ fate and was a microcosm of the poor decision-making by such a veteran group all night.
When Florida is bad, it’s been on the road, the meltdown in Tuscon, the loss in Kansas City, the debacle in Fayetteville and last nights outing in Columbia. Florida has shown when the going gets tough, they don’t get going and that may come back to bite them in March.
When the tournament comes around Florida will presumably be a 1, 2 or at worst a 3-seed assuming they hold serve the rest of their schedule and at least make it to Saturday in the SEC tournament. Should they navigate to the Final 4, the Gators will play their first three games against inferior opponents with nothing to lose: teams like Kansas State, Missouri and Arkansas. In an Elite 8 situation they would presumably play a team that’s dangerous, and seeded near them, like for instance an Arizona.
The games won’t be in the friendly confines of the O’connell center, and they’ll have to overcome more than a little adversity. The question is, if the Gators turn in an offensive performance like they did tonight, can they?
Florida looks to return to the win column Saturday February 23rd against Arkansas.