A season on the brink may have very well reached it on Saturday evening as the Florida Gators (10-9, 3-3 SEC) gave up multiple leads and ultimately fell 72-71 to the Ole Miss Rebels (12-7, 3-3 SEC) at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Mississippi.
Florida has now lost three-straight games for the first time since the end of the 2011-12 regular season, and the Gators are on pass to miss both the NCAA Tournament and NIT.
“I thought this as a microcosm of how little room for error there is,” Donovan said. “That really just goes to show you how hard it will be for us unless we can really, really, really become a very, very disciplined, connected team, because we just break down.”
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:
It was over when: A 6-0 stretch for the Gators put them ahead of the Rebels 69-65 with 2:52 to play. However, Ole Miss ended its 4:08 field goal drought with a mid-range jumper at 1:54 on the clock and scored five-straight to retake the lead at 70-69 with 31 seconds left. Florida junior guard Michael Frazier II stepped up to make two free throws that pushed UF ahead 71-70 with 9.8 seconds remaining, but the Gators fouled on the other end and Jarvis Summers made two of his own to give the Rebels back a 72-21 lead with 3.5 seconds left. The final play of the game belonged to UF sophomore point guard Kasey Hill, who caught the ball in the backcourt and attempted to not only drive the length of the floor but finish with a reverse layup; he failed with the buzzer going off before the ball even left his hands.
“Kasey has got to recognize, three-and-a-half seconds, you got to get a shot up,” Donovan said. “You just got to stop and shoot the ball. He could have taken it to the free throw line and got that shot up. His speed got him to that point, which was good, but he obviously probably took it a bit too far.”
Significant stretches: Ole Miss took its first substantial lead of the game at 53-46 on the back of an explosive 13-0 run; the streak included three-straight triples for the Rebels and five consecutive missed shots by the Gators, all occurring in a span of less than three minutes. UF responded with an extended 11-4 stretch to tie the contest at 57 with 7:30 to play, and the team’s traded leads for the duration of the game.
Prominent player: Without Frazier, the Gators would have been run out of the building on Saturday. Frazier finished with a season- and game-high 27 points on 7-of-11 shooting (6-of-8 from beyond the arc) while going 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. He also added five rebounds and three assists. “Michael Frazier had an unconscious night. He really shot the ball extremely well,” said Donovan. “It was good to see him be aggressive. We tried to do some different things for him, and he did a pretty good job.”
First half focus: Florida opened up the contest by making its first three shots and taking an 8-0 lead, extending that advantage to 11 as freshman F Devin Robison drained a three from the corner midway through the half. Ole Miss erased UF’s big advantage with a 12-0 run – including consecutive deep triples by the Rebels and two turnovers by Hill – to take a one-point lead. Eight points from redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith (back-to-back treys) and three free throws from Frazier accounted for an 11-0 run that put UF ahead 31-21, but Ole Miss cut its deficit to three with seven-straight points in just over one minute of game clock. Five-straight points by the Gators, including Finney-Smith’s fourth three in the opening 20 minutes, helped the visitors reach a six-point lead at the break.
Finney-Smith/Frazier – 8/12 FG, 6/7 3PT, 3/3 FT, 8 reb, 25 points Rest of #Gators – 5/13 FG, 1/3 3PT, 0/2 FT, 8 reb, 11 points
— OnlyGators.com (@onlygators) January 24, 2015
Perfect plays: Hill struggled in the first half but did complete a picture-perfect alley-oop to sophomore F Chris Walker.
So many mistakes: Finney-Smith looked primed for another breakout game with 14 points in the first half, but he struggled mightily over the remainder of the contest, scoring just one point in the second period while fouling out and committing five turnovers. Joining him as ineffective was Hill, who was called for four fouls and committed four turnovers while going 0-for-3 from the field, 1-for-4 from the line and mishandling the ball on the last possession of the game. “There’s just, again, no room for error when we make the amount of mistakes that we make,” Donovan said.
Standout stats: Florida shot better from beyond the arc (12-for-20) than it did from inside it (10-of-26), missing numerous attempts near the basket – and at the charity stripe – once again. The Gators also failed to cut down their fouling, committing 17 in the game (12 in the second half) as the best free throw-shooting team in the country (the Rebels) made 16-of-19 attempts from the free throw line.
“We get to the free throw line 24 times in the game and with those numbers, we’re still in a really, really tight game,” Donovan said. “I think that just shows how little of margin of error we have as a team because there’s just so many breakdowns during the course of the game.”
What it means: UF continues to fall deeper and deeper, dropping its third-straight game and now standing at just 10-9 for the season. The Gators are on pace for their second-worst season since Donovan took over the program in 1996 and once again lost multiple double-digit leads when they looked to have the game in hand.
Next up: Florida will get two days at home before jumping back on the road to face Alabama on Tuesday. The Gators and Crimson Tide are scheduled for a late tip at 9 p.m.
Everything else: Kurtz drew his eighth charge of the season … redshirt junior G Eli Carter also struggled with three fouls and two turnovers; he did hit 3-of-4 free throws, however, and matched Finney-Smith with a team-high six boards … the Gators led for 29:48 of the game but still fell to the Rebels, which only led for 7:31 (including the final 3.5 seconds)