Unfortunately for Gator fans, Florida men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan will have to wait at least three more days to claim his 500th win. Florida lost its second straight game on Tuesday night, falling to the Missouri Tigers by a final score of 64-52.
It was a tale of two halves for both teams inside Mizzou Arena, with the Tigers making all the right plays down the stretch. The Gators held a 45-39 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining but in a span of 10 minutes, the Tigers went on a 16-2 run that would seal Florida’s fate.
The Gators (13-15, 6-9) played relatively well in the first half shooting a respectable 43 percent from the field. The Gators went into the locker room up 31-27 holding all the momentum and the hope was that very same success would continue for the final 20 minutes as well.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case, and once again, the Gators would see yet another second half lead slip away. Florida was outscored 37-21 in the second half, shooting just 33 percent from the field and while the team struggled in seemingly every facet down the stretch. Donovan noted the team’s poor shooting percentage from the charity stripe as the most disappointing.
“We go there 23 times which is a lot for us and you go 9-for-23. And in essence that was the game and we’ve never shot the ball particularly well, 5-of-23 from the three point line but we gave up 19 points, some of it from the free throw line, but we really just made some bad decisions when it was a six point game.”
The Gators finished the night with just two players in double figures in freshman forward Devin Robinson and senior center Jon Horford who scored 14 and 10 respectively. This was the third straight double digit game for the freshman and it would appear he is finally starting to figure things out. Robinson also finished with six rebounds and two blocks and it would seem the extra minutes that he has garnered with the absence of Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith is really starting to pay off.
The surprise of the night had to be what the Gators saw out of Horford. Going into Tuesday night’s game, the former transfer hadn’t reached double figures in 15 games, and his 10 point first half performance was certainly an unexpected sight. Unfortunately, those would be the only points for the big man on the night, as Horford was unable to connect on either of the two shots he took in the second half.
Outside of those two, the Gators saw little success from anyone that touched the floor. Redshirt junior Eli Carter finished with just two points, shooting 1-of-7 from the field and sophomore point guard Kasey Hill ended the night with just five. To put things in perspective, the Gators third highest scorer was former walk-on Jacob Kurtz, who ended the night with seven. The Gators struggled to maintain any sort of consistency on offense and Donovan is still baffled as to why his team is simply unable to put all the pieces together.
“We’re trying as hard as we can, and for whatever reason, I’ve said it before, I’m unable, you know, having a hard time getting through to them and the things we’ve got to do that go into winning, and you try to practice them and work on them and talk to them and for whatever reason we’re not able to see it translate onto the court and into these games.”
The Tigers (8-20, 2-13) entered this game riding a whopping 13 game losing streak, in sole possession of last place in the SEC. Missouri’s only conference win came back on January 8th, in their SEC opener over LSU.
Since then, Tiger fans have found very little to cheer about, but on Tuesday night they simply would not be denied. Despite shooting 38 percent in the first half, the Tigers would turn things up a notch shooting a whopping 50 percent in the second half and that would propel them in the final 10 minutes.
The Tigers were led by an unlikely figure in freshman guard Namon Wright who put together a career night, finishing with 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field. This was just Wright’s fourth double digit performance of the season and his first since January 17th against Tennessee.
Missouri’s leading scorer, Johnathan Williams III entered Tuesday’s game averaging a team high 12.4 points per game but finished with just nine. The underclassman shot just 1-of-4 from the field and did the majority of his damage from the free throw line. Despite Williams finishing with less than spectacular numbers, Donovan boasted about the play of Kim Anderson’s talented freshman.
“The guy that really hurt us was Wright; he shot the heck out of the ball. We didn’t really have anyone in our backcourt that could match up with him and he rose up over our guys who missed him in transition and he was able to carry the scoring load for them.”
Now the Gators will look to regroup as they return to Gainesville to meet Donnie Tyndall and the Tennessee Volunteers. This will be the first match up between the two schools this season and Donovan notes his guys will need to be prepared for a tough matchup.
“We’ll go against a complete zone team on Saturday and they’ll be a lot to get prepared for playing them for the first time. It will be a battle for this group.”
In the coming days Gator fans will find out whether or not they will see the return of either Michael Frazier II or Dorian Finney-Smith and with just three games left in the regular season, having one or both of their top two scorers back on the court would be a big lift.
If there is one positive you can take from the loss to Missouri, the Gators will now have two opportunities to give Billy Donovan his 500th win at home, in front of what they hope will be a capacity crowd inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
To hear the audio of the quotes above, click on the links below:
Billy Donovan talks about the areas of weakness and where they struggled the most
Billy Donovan talks about defending Missouri’s Johnathan Williams and the success of Namon Wright
Billy Donovan says the team is simply unable to showcase what they’re really capable of doing during games
Billy Donovan talks about facing Tennessee