Another poor shooting performance put No. 18 Florida Gators basketball (3-2) in a tough position on Thursday evening against the UAB Blazers (2-4). However, in the end, Florida used an extensive game-ending scoring stretch to outlast UAB 56-47 in the loser’s bracket of the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis at the Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: Trailing by two with four minutes to play, Florida took off with four-straight free throws, a driving layup by sophomore point guard Kasey Hill and a dunk by redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith (following a block by redshirt senior center Jon Horford) to take a 53-47 lead. The Gators would extend their half-ending run to 11-0 as the Blazers failed to make a field goal (0-for-6) over the final 6:21 of the contest.
Significant stretch: The Gators went 1-for-11 from the field as the Blazers made 6-of-7 shots from the floor and went on a 9-2 run to jump ahead 43-41 with 8:44 left in the game. Florida would retake the lead shortly thereafter, but the run put UAB back in the contest and kept things close most of the second half.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Prominent player: No one on Florida played particularly well, but freshman point guard Chris Chiozza made the biggest impact on Thursday. Chiozza scored a career-high 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, draining 3-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc – all in the second half. He also had six steals in the first half, more than any Gators player in an entire game last season, and three assists in 29 minutes.
First half focus: UAB kicked things off up 12-5 as Florida struggled mightily from the field, hitting just 2-of-13 shots and 1-of-9 threes as it missed nine-straight field goals and two free throws over a span of 7:21. However, seven turnovers and a 6:47 scoring drought by the Blazers allowed the Gators to piece together a 13-2 run and take an 18-14 lead with less than four minutes until halftime. UAB regained the lead, which it held for 13:44 in the first half, by scoring six-straight, but Florida ended the half on a 9-2 run to take a 27-22 lead into the break.
Standout stats: The Blazers took better care of the ball in the second half, but their 16 turnovers allowed the Gators to stay in the game even while Florida shot a paltry 34 percent from the field and 57 percent from the charity stripe. UF picked up 24 of its 56 points off UAB turnovers and outscored the designated home team 20-6 off the bench.
What it means: Florida pulled out a victory in a game it truly had no business winning considering how poorly it shot the ball. The Gators are back over .500 at 3-2 and may find a way to stay in the top 25 rankings if they can pick up one more victory.
Next up: Playing in the loser’s bracket finals on Friday, Florida will attempt to finish in fifth place for the Battle 4 Atlantis when it takes on No. 5 North Carolina at 8 p.m. UF is 2-3 all-time against UNC; the teams first met in 1922 but have not played since the 2000 NCAA Tournament (Gators beat the Tar Heels 71-59). The last time Florida and North Carolina played a regular-season game was in the 1965-66 season.
Everything else: UAB actually had the lead in the game for longer than UF (17:43-15:08) … Gators sophomore guard Michael Frazier II had game-highs of 14 points and eight rebounds (Horford matched him with eight boards) … Chiozza and Finney-Smith proved how impactful they can be on the court, finishing with plus-minuses of 15 and 13, respectively … Hill finished with just eight points but notched a game-high five assists … Finney-Smith missed all three of his triples and all four of his free throws on the evening … redshirt senior F Jacob Kurtz and freshman F Devin Robinson did not score, combining to go 0-for-8 from the field … redshirt junior G Eli Carter (foot sprain) did not play