The floundering Florida Gators continued their disastrous end to the 2015-16 regular season, falling 88-79 to the No. 19/22 Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday during Senior Night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
UF (17-13, 8-9 SEC) has now dropped four straight games and six of its last eight, falling from squarely in the 2016 NCAA Tournament to far outside the bubble. The Gators’ continued their awful shooting and lackadaisical defense that they’ve displayed over the final quarter of the season, allowing the Wildcats (22-8, 12-5 SEC) to sweep them for the second straight season (five total meetings).
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s loss with nine quick-hitters.
It was over when: Kentucky held Florida at arm’s length despite UF cutting a double digit lead down to two points with 17:43 to play. The Wildcats quickly went off on a 10-2 run to retake a 10-point lead and extended their advantage to 15 with 6:44 left in the game. UK never allowed UF to truly believe it had a chance to take the lead as the visitors went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the second half, stifling attempted scoring stretches while throwing water on the hot O’Dome crowd.
First half focus: Despite an impassioned start, Florida’s awful shooting reared its ugly head early as the Gators began the contest 8-for-28 from the field and went nearly five minutes without a basket. The Wildcats put together an opposite performance, hitting 15 of their first 24 shots to spring a 32-18 lead. Thanks to eight Kentucky turnovers – four in the final five minutes – and 2-for-10 shooting from the visitors, Florida was able to piece together a 14-2 scoring stretch (that would have been bigger had the hosts not missed open layups and free throws) that allowed it to trail by just four at the break. Low foul and turnover numbers for UF kept it in the contest early.
Have a night, big man: Redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu was the only effective player for the Gators on Tuesday, posting a career-high 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Nine of those 12 baskets were dunks, and Egbunu was responsible for nearly 40 percent of his team’s points on the evening. But enough with the positives.
Astonishingly bad: Florida went 29-for-68 from the field. That’s bad. Here’s what’s worse: Not counting Egbunu, the Gators were 17-for-53. That’s 32.7 percent. Thirty-two-point-seven-percent. (It was actually much worse for them but garbage-time baskets made the marks less horrible.) Sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza was 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-4 from three. Freshman guard KeVaughn Allen hit 5-of-16 field goals and missed four straight threes between makes. Junior PG Kasey Hill not only made 3-of-8 shots, he went just 2-of-6 from the line. Speaking of …
No kidding: Certainly no one expects Florida to be a great free-throw shooting team, but for the Gators to go 6-for-16 in the first half and 16-for-37 on the game is abhorrent, especially considering it was a home contest and a make-or-break game for the team’s tournament hopes. The 43.2 percent clip is UF’s second-worst performance from the charity stripe this season.
Disappearing act II: Arguably no one was as bad Tuesday as redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who went 5-for-12 from the field and 1-for-5 from beyond the arc (counting a late, irrelevant three) in his final home game. Sure, others shot and played worse, but had Florida had an average performance from Finney-Smith as opposed to a terrible one, there’s a chance the Gators could have actually been in the game.
Everything else: UF has now lost four straight games in consecutive seasons … UK went 7-for-10 from three and a perfect 5-for-5 from downtown in the second half … the Wildcats did not hit a free throw in the first 20 minutes but made 71.9 percent of their 32 attempts in the second half … the Gators scored 42 points in the paint (27 for Egbunu)
What it means: Florida went from one game out of first place and a potential double bye in the 2016 SEC Tournament to a losing record in league play in just a couple weeks. It also handed away an NCAA Tournament bid and will now likely have to beat Missouri in its season finale plus win two games in the SEC Tournament to have an outside chance at getting in the 68-team field.
Up next: The Gators will thankfully conclude their regular season Saturday when Florida hits the road to face Missouri at 7:30 p.m. on SEC Network.