Another close game, another upset loss for the No. 4/5 Florida Gators, which blew double-digit leads in both halves before falling 63-60 to the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday evening at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO.
Florida (21-4, 11-2 SEC) fell to 0-3 in games decided by three points or less this season while Missouri (19-7, 8-5 SEC) remained undefeated at home and now boasts a 15-0 record on its court (7-0 in league play).
The Gators held a game-high 13-point lead on the Tigers with 10:41 left in the game but committed six fouls and five turnovers over the duration of the contest while allowing Mizzou to pull off the come-from-behind upset.
Forward Laurence Bowers, whose absence was felt in Missouri’s 31-point loss at Florida on Jan. 19, led all scorers with 17 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and proved to be a big-time problem for the Gators in the paint.
Florida jumped ahead by 12 early in the contest as its guards drained four consecutive threes as part of a 14-2 run that put the Gators up 18-6 with 12:28 left in the first half.
Maintaining an 11-point lead, Florida suddenly went ice cold from the field, missing its final eight shots of the half while going scoreless for the final 4:37 of the period. Mizzou responded by scoring eight unanswered points and trailed by just three at the half.
The Tigers immediately cut their deficit to a single point as UF missed a pair of baskets at the start of the second half including its ninth-straight from beyond the arc.
Finding their shooting stroke again, the Gators used a 15-4 run – including a pair of three-pointers by senior F Erik Murphy – to take a game-high 13-point lead with 10:41 left in the game.
Down but not out, Missouri immediately responded with an explosive 12-0 scoring stretch started by consecutive threes to get within one of the visitors as Florida committed a bevy of fouls and turnovers.
Still a one-point game with three minutes to play, the Tigers put together another big run, scoring six-straight points to take a 59-57 lead, their first of the night. However, Gators junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained a trey coming out of a timeout to put UF back on top 60-59 with 1:39 remaining.
Bowers connected on an elbow jumper to put Mizzou ahead 61-60, and a failed three-pointer by Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton with seven seconds left basically put the nail in his team’s coffin.
The Gators are allowed free reign from downtown by head coach Billy Donovan as long as they are taking open shots. Florida, which forced numerous attempts from beyond the arc on Tuesday, took 33 of its 54 shots from three-point land and made just 10 of those attempts.
UF was also outrebounded 28-40 by UM, which registered a 24-16 scoring advantage inside the paint. The Gators did not score a single second-chance point in the contest.
Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario scored a team-high 14 points for Florida. Boynton posted 11 points but did so on just 4-of-13 shooting (2-of-9 from downtown). Junior center Patric Young, who was not in foul trouble on Tuesday, went just 1-for-4 with two points and three rebounds.
UF will look to shake off Tuesday’s troublesome performance as it prepares to take on the only other Southeastern Conference team to defeat it this season. Florida hosts Arkansas on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a contest that will air live on ESPNU.