Florida’s end-of-game woes continue in Columbia

Tuesday night’s game against the Missouri Tigers did not end the way Billy Donovan, head coach of the No. 4/5 Florida Gators, had planned as he called a timeout and tried to rally his team.

Down one with 19.1 seconds remaining, Donovan called for junior center Patric Young to set a screen for junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who would roll off and drive to the hoop and either finish at the rim or kick it back out to an open man. However, Wilbekin’s lane was blocked and he instead passed it to senior Kenny Boynton, who took a split-second to consider driving to the hoop but saw two defenders in front of him and instead took an off-balance three-pointer that clanged the back of the rim.

Suffice to say, Donovan was not pleased with how the play transpired.

“No. I did not want that at all. We would have liked to have had some action driven to the basket. When you’re down by one, you want to at least try to create some penetration. I talked about that during the timeout. I got to see the film. I don’t know what kind of look it was for him,” he said after the game.

“I think, in those situations, teams are going to want to generally try not to foul or at least try to keep their hands back [as] we were in the double bonus. We needed to have some action toward the basket. I thought Scottie probably gave it up a little too early because he had a driving lane there as the guy guarding the screen kind of went back to his man. As that was happening, he kind of threw the ball across the floor. We wanted to keep the floor spaced. We had it spaced and we wanted to put [the ball] on the floor and create some action to the basket.”

But the Gators – as has been their trademark for the last five years that Boynton and/or Erving Walker have been running the backcourt – again settled for a long three when a two-pointer would have sufficed.


“I thought it was a good look. I did a shimmy shake and the guy backed up a little. I had a clean look; it just didn’t go down,” Boynton said. “The play was basically Scottie comes off the screen, he flips it and whoever gets it goes [to the hoop]. … I tried to get a shot up at the basket and they came down with it.”

This is not new territory for Florida. As The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway pointed out early Wednesday morning, “the Achilles heel of Donovan’s coaching tenure in 17 seasons showed up again in UF’s 63-60 loss at Missouri – his inability to get the Gators to close out tight basketball games.”

Brockway broke down Donovan’s record in games decided by five points or less to 67-76 in his tenure at UF. His 46.9 percent winning efficiency in those contests is an obvious outlier when compared to other active national championship-winning coaches like Kansas’ Bill Self (.571), Kentucky’s John Calipari (.570), North Carolina’s Roy Williams (.555), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (.554), Michigan State’s Tom Izzo (.547) and Louisville’s Rick Pitino (.503.) (Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim is an outlier at the other end of the chart at .628.)

Yet while end-of-game situations are incredibly important and Florida has failed to make the most of them in recent years, Donovan pointed out Tuesday that much more goes into losing a game and blowing a 13-point lead held midway through the second half.

“It’s not one play that is going to make or break a game. That just happened to be one play with 19 seconds [left] that we could have handled better. There’s probably another 50 or 60 we could’ve handled better in the game on both ends of the floor,” he said.

“There were a lot of things that hurt us in the game. I thought we defended really, really well for about 30 minutes, did a really good job. And then I thought the last 10 minutes, our pick-and-roll coverage on [Phil] Pressey was not great – and it was really, really good for about 30 minutes. With our lack of depth in the front court, we got to be able to fight through fatigue a little bit better and push through that. We don’t have the same rotation up front and obviously that wears on you when you got to guard a guy like that all the time.

“The last 10 minutes, I thought our free throw shooting – I think it was three-straight front-ends of one-and-ones we missed. … I don’t think we got great productivity from our frontcourt really in the game. Patric [Young] was in foul trouble and never really got in the flow of the game. We did not really have a presence at the basket at all.”

The Gators got outrebounded by 12 going up against a significantly larger frontcourt, a statistic that may not be ideal but is certainly understandable. However, Young also only brought in three total rebounds despite playing most of the game and Florida did not score a single second-chance point in the contest.

UF was also incredibly sloppy with the ball.

“For us, 10 assists and 14 turnovers is not who we are. We’ve been much, much better than that in terms of our assist-to-turnover ratio and the way we’ve moved and pass the basketball,” Donovan said.

The Gators entered Tuesday’s contest eighth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.42 but sliced that ratio in half against the Tigers (0.71). In fact, Florida registered six fewer assists and committed three more turnovers than it does on average.

Another concern? The Gators shot 33 of their 54 total field goal attempts from three-point land and at one point missed nine in a row. Though Florida is efficient from deep, no team should take 61.1 percent of its scoring opportunities from that range.

“We did settle in the first half. Coach told us we weren’t playing the right way,” Boynton said. “We tried to get it down more in the second half, but we still ended up taking threes.”

Missouri outscored Florida 27-11 down the stretch and the Gators did not have an answer. UF could neither stop UM when it counted nor score when it needed to. Save a late three-pointer by Wilbekin that put Florida up a single point in the final minute, things may have looked even worse for the visitors.

“That’s a concern. We tried switching defenses. They scored on both of them. They just converted at the end of the game. They converted more than we did,” Boynton said.

Teams have been beating up on the Gators at the ends of close games for quite some time now – including in the Elite Eight of the last two NCAA Tournaments.

Though Florida looks like a better all-around team now than it did in 2010-11 or 2011-12, losses that should have served as learning experiences in the past are instead compounding as a black eye on the resume of one of the greatest basketball coaches in the history of the Southeastern Conference.

Photo Credit: John Bazemore/Associated Press

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13 Responses to “Florida’s end-of-game woes continue in Columbia”

  1. Gators22 says:

    I said after the Arizona game that it was a good loss and something positive would come out of it, but the personality of this team is becoming very concerning. Now, I’m wondering….Who on this team is going to step up and take a leadership role with the game on the line?

    This team is starting to remind me more of 2004 and all those close losses with Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson, than it does 2007. I wasn’t a big fan of Erving Walker’s last year, but he was our go to guy who wanted the ball in his handes when we needed a big shot. It’s an intangible quality that can’t be coached.

    I know kenny Boynton is the natural choice to either dish the ball or hit the clutch shot, but that hasn’t worked out well this year.

    • Crock says:

      Erv did a terrible job at taking quality shots with the game on the line. His absence from this team has actually greatly helped. He was wild and out of control with the ball and he couldn’t guard anybody because he was so small.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        I aree, dition by subtraction. The team this year isn’t as deep as last year, but it is significantly better mainly because Walker is gone. He could make some awesome looking shots from way out, but they were low percentage and bad choices, they just looked awesome when they went in. I don’t know if it is just the dregs of the season or a little bored because have the SEC pretty much sewn up, but they just don’t have the intensity they had early on.

      • MAR says:

        Boynton is also doing a terrible job of taking quality shots with the game on the line. He blew it against Mizzou and against Zona with shots and ball handling. I expected a great year out of Kenny for his senior season, but his offense has regressed. Hopefully his shot comes back at some point because we will need it in the tourney, but I haven’t seen it all year. Young isn’t ready for the NBA, he is too inconstant. He was outworked numerous times last night, by smaller guys. He needs to learn some moves under the hoop instead of going straight up every time. (pivoting, pump fakes, etc.) Still optimistic though with Billy at the helm. C’mon Gators, keep your heads up and learn from this!

        • Crock says:

          Yes 2012 Erv=2013 Boynton

          We would be better cutting his minutes and having him come off the bench.
          Start Wilbeken, Rosario, Prather, Young, Murphy

          Switch Prather and Yueguette if he comes back healthy

          • Gators22 says:

            I agree on all the comments of addition by subtraction, and I remarked that I wasn’t a huge fan of Walker’s.

            BUT, my point was and is that Walker was not afraid to take and make the gutsy shot with the game in the balance. We need SOMEONE to lead this team!

  2. gatorboi352 says:

    The problem is we start 3 guards who all would rather jack up a 3 than take a guy off the dribble and penetrate the lane. I would much rather start Prather at the 3 for this reason alone. Slide Rosario to the 2 and let Boynton run a pseudo point position. That leaves Wilbekin coming in off the bench. Reason being IMO: He’s starting to _slightly_ regress offensively, and his vision and instincts on that end of the floor aren’t nearly as impressive as they are on defense. I look for Kasey Hill to at least split minutes with him next year, if not take over the job entirely.

    And lastly, the treating of Patric Young as if he were the “red headed step child” on offense is getting old. He deserves at least twice as many touches as he’s receiving a game currently. Our guards are way too timid feeding him down low.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      I think you make a lot of good points there and agree with most. I am just curious what happened with Ogbueze? He was supopsed to be a great point coming in that could have good impact and minutes, and he is barely seeing the floor. Is he that bad still? Will he even stay on the team next year with Hill coming in? I thought he was going to see a lot more floor time and by this time of season we would have a pure point playing significant minutes rather than a converted point (boynton)…and if Boynton would dish more than jack up bad shots, and play more like a true point guard, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were still undefeated at this point.

  3. Gatormatic says:

    Although I am definitely concerned, I think a lot can be said about what the Gators are doing to opposing teams for most of the game. Against both Arizona and Mizzou, we were in control for almost the entire game and had double digit leads. Absolutely punching good teams in the mouth. Then, we let it slip. It’s not like a back and forth battle the entire game and then we lose late, we’re usually dominating these games and take the foot off the gas and let the game slip through our hands. The solution for this? Keep the foot on the gas and pound teams, leave absolutely no doubt. I believe this veteran group of guys can do it. I don’t think the Gators will lose another game this season. BOOK IT!

    • Frank Derrick says:

      I like Gatormatic’s positive slant…Depth has been an issue all season and in the close games lost, the Gators have fought hard to get solid leads in very hostile settings, all the while wearing down at the crucial home stretch final 3 to 5 minutes because of lack of subbing depth. Two things: First, I’d be confident at this juncture giving Michael Frazier II that last- second shot. He can stroke the three. Second, these guys should be fine in the tourney…all neutral sites. Theses guys can play with anybody. Take away the enemy home court and we rock and roll. And I agree…undefeated the rest of the way!

      • Ken (CA) says:

        They probably are a bit worn down at this point in the season, playing more minutes than they would like with Yeguette out, but they are also one of the best conditioned teams in all of NCAA or they couldn’t pley 40 minutes of the kind of defense they play. And exhaustion really doesn’t explain the last minute of either half of the game at Zona, they simply lost all focus and coasted against a good team

    • Ken (CA) says:

      easy solution, make them watch them damn tapes from the last 2 elite 8 losses over and over until it has seared their brain…

  4. Matt says:

    I think there were a lot of things that made this a loss. First Eric M had a terrible game not only shooting but really really lazy passes. Second Free throws lost this game just as much as anything else. Lastly, the kids with the hot hand was not allowed to play more and that was Frazier. He was the only one hitting consistently and IMO he should have played a lot more.

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