The Ole Miss Rebels did it again, ousting the Florida Gators by a single point in a come-from-behind 62-61 victory on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
The Gators (12-12, 5-6 SEC) fell to .500 on the year as the Rebels (17-7, 8-3 SEC) improved their national standing. Ole Miss has now defeated Florida twice this season by a single point, previously winning 72-71 in Oxford, Mississippi on Jan. 24.
It is the first time since 1989-90 that the Rebels have swept the Gators in a single season and the first time Florida has registered a pair of three-game losing streaks in a single campaign since 2009-10. The Gators are also .500 or worse in the spring portion of a basketball season for the first time since 1997-98.
“This team will have a very, very, very, very hard time just to have a winning record this year, a very hard time,” said head coach Billy Donovan after the game.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with nine quick-hitters:
It was over when: Florida led by two with 18.4 seconds remaining, but Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody stepped up for the visitors, draining a contested three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to put the Rebels ahead of the Gators for good. UF was unable to get a legitimate shot off on its final two possessions prior to Moody’s three and also failed to do anything on its final touch of the game. Moody had a game-high 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
“He actually shot the ball from the nose of the alligator, seriously, his heels were on the nose of the alligator,” Donovan began when describing the game’s deciding play. “It was a great defensive stance by us. They had a play on, we took it away, we matched up really well, the floor was disheveled, there was maybe 3-4 seconds to go, they threw it to him, he took one step and just bombed in a shot. That was really the difference in the game, so give him credit for knocking down a big shot when his team needed it.”
Second half significance: Five-straight points from freshman forward Devin Robinson – a corner three and baseline dunk – broke a tie and pushed Florida ahead 54-49 with less than eight minutes to play, but Ole Miss answered right back to continue the back-and-forth battle that was the second half. A trey from Gators F Dorian Finney-Smith gave the hosts a four-point lead late, but UF missed four shots over the final 2:03 of the contest and the visitors took advantage.
“The problem on the two previous [possessions] is we got caught standing, waiting for somebody to make a play. That, for us, is another point for these guys to learn, the fact that we have to do it collectively together and they’ve got to be a team,” Donovan said. “We weren’t moving well enough; we weren’t helping each other, relying on each other. Everyone was waiting for somebody to go make a play instead of trying to make the play collectively as a group.”
First half focus: Robinson kept the Gators in the game early, scoring seven of his team’s first 12 points and going 3-for-3 from the field while the rest of the squad started 2-for-12. But it was junior F Alex Murphy’s five-straight points, including the first three-pointer of his Florida career, that helped push the hosts ahead 31-24 with four minutes to go until the break. UF used six threes in the half to hold onto the advantage and take a 38-33 lead into the locker rooms.
Prominent player: Enjoying a breakout game, Robinson led the way for the Gators with 14 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and seven boards. He was effective throughout the contest, also registering two blocks, but went a stretch of 16:35 in the middle of the game without attempting a field goal. Finney-Smith nearly matched Robinson play-for-play with a team-high 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Perfect plays: A freshman connection was established in the first half when point guard Chris Chiozza dribbled inside the arc, looked up and found Robinson, who finished at the rim with a two-handed jam. It happened again in the latter 20 minutes when Robinson slammed home another Chiozza alley-oop with authority.
Standout stat: Florida did what it could for most of the game, using turnovers and offensive rebounding to take seven more shots than Ole Miss with each team making 23 baskets. Some difference came at the free throw line, as the Gators made just six on nine shots and the Rebels drained 10 on 13 attempts, but Florida’s continued shooting woes (37.7 percent from the field on the evening) doomed it once again.
“I’d like to have some guys that are able to score. Some of our shooting is really, really unbelievable in a lot of ways,” said Donovan. “It’s just hard when your backcourt shoots those kinds of [poor] numbers. … You try to be positive, you try to be encouraging, you try to get in the gym and try to work with guys. But at some point, somebody’s got to put the ball in the basket. Somebody’s got to make a shot, make a play; somebody’s got to be able to do that.”
What it means: Now at .500 on the season and just 5-6 in SEC play, UF put another nail in its coffin as far as its postseason aspirations are concerned. Florida once again gave away a contest it led late due to its inability to put points on the board.
Next up: The Gators will hit the road to face Texas A&M at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, celebrating Valentine’s Day in College Station, Texas.
Everything else: Florida led the rebounding battle 17-11 to start the game but finished even with Ole Miss at 36 … the Gators led for 28:42, while the Rebels held the advantage for just 5:30 including the final 2.7 seconds … four other Florida players scored at least seven points with sophomore F Chris Walker adding six boards … Chiozza and sophomore PG Kasey Hill each had four assists