Consider Florida Gators basketball officially out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament barring an unforeseen turnaround. The Gators fell 96-91 to the LSU Tigers on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the truth is that Florida seemed to lack motivation despite seemingly having plenty of it for the majority of the contest.
UF (17-12, 8-8 SEC) has now dropped four of its last five games and five of its last seven, falling to 2-7 on the road in league play. The Gators appeared disinterested for most of the game Saturday despite their postseason life being very much on the line against a beatable team in the Tigers (17-12, 10-6 SEC) that themselves lost three straight games and four of their last five.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s loss with eight quick-hitters.
It was over when: Florida slowly but surely cut into its monster deficit, which reached as many as 18 points, and found itself down eight with five minutes to play after back-to-back threes by redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith. A couple late triples by sophomore F Devin Robinson, plus another by junior point guard Kasey Hill, saw the Gators’ deficit cut to two with 42.6 seconds left. Free throws allowed it to go back-and-forth for some time, but ultimately it was too little too late as the Tigers made their gimmies down the stretch and held on for the victory.
First half failures: Get off to a slow start? That’s Florida’s specialty these days. LSU opened the contest up 10-2 as it hit five straight field goals and capitalized off two UF turnovers. The Gators surprised with an impressive, aggressive 15-0 run that erased a 12-point deficit, but that momentum was short-lived. Instead, the Tigers capitalized on six straight misses from the visitors and ended the half on a substantial 20-6 run to take a 40-29 lead at the break despite future No. 1 pick Ben Simmons only posting four points in the first 20 minutes.
Disappearing act: Finney-Smith played one of his better games as of late, but he went nearly a full half of basketball failing to play aggressively and therefore not making a single point. Unfortunately, Florida is not talented enough to endure its best player disappearing. He finished 5-of-8 from the game with a 4-for-6 mark from beyond the arc, registering 14 points and seven boards.
Consider the rookie wall hit: Freshman guard KeVaughn Allen has been slumping in a major way over his last through games. Allen started 0-for-3, giving him 11 straight missed field goals, before hitting a couple baskets. He’s still cold from beyond the arc, however, and has now missed 10 consecutive three-pointers over the last six halves. Considering Allen’s had 10 games with 15+ points this season – including breakout contests with 32 and 27 – his inability to take good shots and put the ball in the hoop has certainly not been helpful as UF’s struggled.
There’s no saving the point guard play: Even when Hill has a tremendous scoring night, finishing with the team’s second-most points (16) on 6-of-9 shooting with a pair of treys, he can’t help but struggle in other areas, like committing a team-high five turnovers. Similarly, sophomore PG Chris Chiozza dished a team-high seven assists, but he once again struggled with dumbfounding shot selection and gave away the ball thrice on his own. As long as UF’s floor generals remain inconsistent, there is little hope the team can turn things around.
Everything else: The Gators scored 60 points in the second half … Florida attempted eight more shots and made four more than LSU but still lost by five as the hosts attempted 18 more free throws, making twice as many as UF (30-15) … the aforementioned 15-0 run gave the Gators a lead for 2:16, their only advantage of the day … Robinson finished 4-of-5 from beyond the arc for 15 points; he’s now 8-for-12 from three over the last three games
What it means: Florida is off the bubble and out of the NCAA Tournament conversation … for now. Sure, a win Tuesday would put the Gators right back in the thick of things, but that’s unlikely, and a victory on the road at Missouri to close the regular season would be relatively meaningless. UF’s best hope is beating Mizzou and winning a couple games in the SEC Tournament, otherwise it will be headed for the NIT and miss March Madness in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09.
Up next: The Gators will look to avoid losing their fourth straight game when Florida hosts Kentucky on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a game that will air live nationally on ESPN. UK has won four consecutive contests against UF dating back to Feb. 2015.