The Florida Gators basketball team led every second of the basketball game against the Arizona Wildcats except the last seven, blowing a 6 point lead and the game 65-64. The Gators led the whole way until Mark Lyons driving layup gave the Wildcats their first and only lead of the game with 7 seconds to go. The Gators then floundered their last possession, shunning a timeout which might have been able to set up a game winning shot, choosing instead to push the ball up the floor where they lost control and Scottie Wilbekin threw up a desperation three from near half-court as the Gators fell to 7-1 on the season. Arizona remained undefeated moving to 8-0.
In a bizarre ending to a game of alternating runs, it was Arizona’s last 7-0 run to end the game which would be the difference. The Gators seemed to be in control leading by six and only needing to run clock and not turn the ball over but could not do either in the last minute of the game. In the final minute the Gators turned the ball over three times, two by Rosario, fouled once, and missed the front end of a one and one that could have pushed the Gator lead back to three or four. An epic collapse by a Gator team that had played well the entire game and echoed their performance in the Elite Eight the last two seasons when they gave up large leads late to lose at the end.
The Gators had come into Tucson winning their first seven games by an average of 25.3 points per game, but could never put the Wildcats away largely due to turnovers, their failure to guard the three point line, and the Wildcats prolific free throw shooting. Every time the Gators would get on a run in the second half, the Cats would hit an open three or a couple of clutch free throws to stay within reach and eventually turned up the heat late and the Gators wilted to the roar of the McKale Center crowd. The Gators had been playing their usual tough defense, pressing and switching up their man to man and zone keeping Arizona off-balance for much of the game. Inexplicably though, they kept leaving guys open outside the arc and the Wildcats capitalized hitting clutch three point shots including a couple from downtown Phoenix. The Cats were only 7-20 (35%) from the three point line but hit some big ones late in the second half to stay within reach.
Mike Rosario, who has been playing offensively this season the way he did when he led Rutgers in scoring, led the Gators tonight with 16 points on 5-8 shooting and 2-2 on three point field goals. Erik Murphy chipped in 15 points on 5-10 from the field and 3-5 from three point range, while Scottie Wilbekin, coming off the bench once again but playing starter minutes, finished in double figures with 11 points on 4-5 and 3-3 shooting from the arc. Patric Young had a mixed bag type game, hitting some good shots and playing tough defense finishing with 8 points and two blocks but only two rebounds. Will Yeguete was his usual active self, swatting and stripping balls, creating havoc, and rebounding. He finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, two steals, and two assists. Leading scorer Kenny Boynton struggled once again from the field hitting only 2-10 from the field and 1-7 from three point range and he finished with five points. He did grab 5 rebounds and had a couple of assists but three turnovers. Boynton is now 2 out of his last 20 three point shots and this was the third straight game he has struggled from the field. To top it off he missed the front end of a one and one which could have made it a four point game with 21 seconds to go setting the Wildcats up for some late game heroics.
Arizona was led by Solomon Hill with 18 points, Nick Johnson with 15 points and two huge, deep three point shots, and and Mark Lyons who finished with 14 points. The Wildcats shot 45 percent from the field for the game, the first team to break 40% against the Gators this season and they were 18-21 (85%) from the free throw line which kept them in the game and proved to be the difference for the Wildcats. Conversely, the Gators only got to the free throw line 8 times in the game hitting six but the two they missed were crucial to the Gators fortunes in this one. The Gators actually hit 55% of their three point shots (10-18) and shot 46 percent overall from the field while holding a 27-21 rebounding advantage including 11 offensive rebounds to only four for Arizona. Oddly though the Gators failed to really capitalize on those offensive rebounds and their three point advantage was largely covered by the Cats unusually large number of free throws.
So the Gators suffered a tough road loss and must regroup before they take on Southeastern Louisiana in the O’Dome on Wednesday December, 19. Tip off in that one is set for 7 pm eastern and once again will be broadcast live on Sun/SportSouth.