For the second time this week, the Florida Gator men’s basketball team let a late lead slip away at home. But this time they were able to fight back and pull out a 61-56 overtime victory over the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks to move to 2-1 on the season.
Florida led by eight points after a pair of free throws from junior guard Michael Frazier II with two minutes left, and the Gators seemed to have finally put away the feisty Warhawks. But Louisiana Monroe answered with an 8-0 run, finished off with a game-tying three pointer from sophomore guard Nick Cappola with 21 seconds remaining. Florida had a chance to take the final shot, but didn’t get one off as Frazier dribbled the ball off of his leg in the closing seconds, sending the game to overtime.
Gator head coach Billy Donovan broke down Cappola’s shot, saying he told his big men to step up and challenge three’s but forward Chris Walker failed to step up on the shot.
“We talk about switching at the end of the game when they run the pick and roll in the middle of the floor, and talk to both of our bigs like listen, your feet have got to be above the three point line. And Chris Walker switches and waiting for the guy to come off is below the three point line and bang, the game’s tied.”
The Gators and Warhawks exchanged points through the first three minutes of overtime, but a Jon Horford dunk with 1:20 left put Florida ahead 56-54, a lead it would not relinquish. The Gators hit some clutch free throws down to put the game away.
Despite squandering a chance to put the game away in regulation, Donovan says getting the win in overtime was a positive thing for his club.
“I actually think it was really, really good for our team,” Donovan said. “I don’t think we have any concept of what even goes into winning, and we need this right now.”
Frazier led the Gators with 21 points, going 4 of 11 from the field and 11 of 13 from the free throw line. Freshman guard Chris Chiozza provided a spark off the bench, putting up 11 points, four assists and four steals.
Frazier and Chiozza were the only Gators to reach double digits in scoring, as the team shot 33% from the floor while going three of 15 (20%) from three.
“I knew tonight we were going to struggle to scoring, you can’t take our two leading scorers off the floor and expect to put up a lot of points,” Donovan said. Florida did not play Dorian Finney-Smith or guard Eli Carter, two starters, because of injury.
Florida now sets its sights on the Battle 4 Atlantis next week in the Bahamas. The Gators will face Georgetown on Wednesday, and then Wisconsin or UAB Thursday before wrapping up the tournament against a team TBA Friday.
Tip off against the Hoyas Wednesday is set for 9:30 p.m., with coverage on Country 103.7 The Gator starting at 8:55.
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