The Florida men’s basketball team has seen this movie before.
Florida (12-13, 5-7 SEC) extends its SEC losing streak to four games after losing another heart breaker, a 63-62 loss Saturday at Texas A&M. It is Florida’s fourth one point loss on the season.
Once again the Gators got off to a very sluggish start falling behind 9-2 and they would trail the entire first half. Florida shot an even 40 percent in the first half and an abysmal 15 percent from beyond the arc. For the second straight game the Gators were without the services of junior shooting guard Michael Frazier II and unfortunately the starter that replaced him against Ole Miss just could not reciprocate what he did a few nights ago.
Freshman forward Devin Robinson led the Gators with 14 against the Rebels but couldn’t manage a single point just two days later.
The majority of the scoring for the Gators in the first half came from red shirt juniors Eli Carter and Dorian Finney-Smith who both went into the locker room with nine points each. Outside of those two, the Gators struggled mightily but did however manage to swing all the momentum their way scoring the final five points of the first half.
Despite shooting 48 percent in the second half, the Gators were never able to significantly outplay the Aggies who also shot 48 percent in the final 20 minutes. Florida did manage to sink four 3′s in the second half but they were out-muscled inside at times as well.
The Aggies outscored the Gators inside the paint 42-32 and Gator head coach Billy Donovan noted that was his team’s biggest problem in the second half.
“The biggest issue in the game was in the second half, they really hurt us around the basket offensively. We did not have enough resistance around the basket.”
The Gators never led until the 1:45 mark in the second half but unfortunately they were not able to hold on to that lead. After corralling a defensive rebound, the Gators attempted to get out in transition where a turnover by sophomore point guard Kasey Hill led to a Florida foul that sent Texas A&M to the free throw line. The Aggies would sink both and those would be the final points scored.
After a series of timeouts, Florida got the ball back with a chance to win but after making several passes, Alex Murphy had to attempt a corner three that would not have counted anyway because the clock ran out before the shot was attempted.
Once again the Gators were unable to finish down the stretch but Donovan was happy with the fight they showcased throughout.
“Unlike maybe some past games where in the second half we kind of folded and got a little bit down, this is now three games where I’ve been excited about our fight and we’ve battled and fought, but you have to find a way to come up with a win.”
The Gators did finish with three in double figures led by Carter who totaled a season high 22 points. Carter finished shooting 9-of-17 from the field and 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. While the former Rutgers transfer did play his best game of the season, Donovan notes this is something he must build on.
“Going into this game shooting 21 percent, and while he shot the ball well tonight which is great, but we need consistent offense from him,” Donovan noted. “That’s not saying he’s going to score 22 every night but he needs to be in a situation where his shooting percentage is not astronomically poor. Tonight he was efficient but we can’t have three, four, five games in a row where he is really struggling to shoot the basketball.”
The Aggies (17-7, 8-4) shot 45 percent from the field on Saturday night and 16 percent from beyond the arc. Much like the Gators, Texas A&M finished with three players in double figures led by senior forward Kourtney Roberson who was a force inside and led Billy Kennedy’s squad with 20 points and six rebounds. The Aggies also received 16 from junior guard Jalen Jones and 14 from Danuel House and collectively their efforts would be enough.
The Aggies would get there first win over a Billy Donovan led Gator team and by doing so, would put Florida under .500 on Valentine’s Day for the first time in Donovan’s tenure at UF. Six games are left in the regular season but Donovan notes his team is going to have to realize the extra effort is needed outside of game situations as well.
“We need discipline in practice. We have to rehearse that discipline every day in practice and just because it’s the end of the game and the game is on the line, there’s a lead up to that, where our discipline wasn’t great in the game and we can’t just try to turn on discipline when the game is tight, we’ve got to be able to do it all the time.”
The Gators will now look to bounce back as they return to Gainesville and the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores, yet another team that has already beaten them this season.
To hear the audio of the quotes above, click on the links below:
Billy Donovan talks about final possession
Billy Donovan talks about Kasey Hil and team needing to find more scorers
Billy Donovan talks about where the team needs to be better
Billy Donovan talks about one key area where his team struggled
Billy Donovan on Eli Carter
Billy Donovan talks about team’s new intensity as of late