Late turnovers doom Florida in loss to Arizona

No. 5 Florida Gators basketball (7-1) blew a six-point lead with a less than a minute left to play, turning the ball over three times and allowing the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats (8-0) to pull off a stunning 65-64 come-from-behind victory at the McKale Center in Tucson, AZ on Saturday evening.

Leading 64-58 following a three-pointer by junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, Florida had possession with 1:01 to play and was looking to throw the ball in when redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario committed the team’s first turnover.

Following two Arizona free throws and a timeout by head coach Billy Donovan, Rosario threw the ball out of play again while trying to force it to Wilbekin. The Wildcats capitalized on the Gators’ miscue by converting a layup, but UF still retained a two-point lead with 43 seconds left to play.

Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton was stripped while trying to dribble the ball up the court against the press on the very next possession. Arizona only converted one of two attempts from the charity stripe and fouled Boynton with 21 seconds left. Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Wildcats senior G Mark Lyons hit the go-ahead layup with seven seconds left to clinch the victory for the home team.

The Gators led most of the game but fell flat on their faces at the end of each half. Florida was outscored a combined 15-0 in the final 1:21 of the first half and final 0:56 of the second half, committing four turnovers and two shooting fouls in that time.

An early 9-0 run by the Gators allowed them to take a quick 14-7 lead. A few minutes later, Florida capped a 10-2 scoring stretch with a three-pointer by senior forward Erik Murphy to inflate that advantage to a game-high 11 points with 3:57 left to play.

The Wildcats, despite committing eight first-half turnovers, were able to get right back in the contest by closing the opening period on an 8-0 run over the final 1:21. Arizona ended the half behind 32-29 but had all of the momentum heading into the break.

UF was able to start the second half like the first, using an 8-2 run to take back its double-digit lead and extending it once again to 11 points with 10 minutes to play after Rosario drained a three from the corner.

It did not take long for UA to get right back in the contest as the Wildcats scored seven-straight points in just over a minute and eventually reduced their deficit to three with less than five minutes remaining. Arizona then took it to Florida over the final minute of the game to pull off the come-from-behind win.

The Gators and Wildcats each had three players score in double figures. Lyons (14), senior F Solomon Hill (18) and sophomore G Nick Johnson (15) led the way for Arizona, while Rosario (16), Murphy (15) and Wilbekin (11) put up most of Florida’s points.

UF’s trio was a combined 8-for-10 from beyond the arc, which made up for an overall lackluster performance by Boynton, who was just 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from downtown. Murphy (five), Boynton (three) and Rosario (three) turned the ball over plenty throughout the game but especially in the second half and the final minute.

Arizona took 21 foul shots on the evening, 13 more than Florida, which only put up eight in 40 minutes. The Gators won the rebounding battle 34-26.

Florida will be forced to put this game out of its collective mind as the Gators must turnaround and face Southeast Louisiana on Wednesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on Sun Sports (check your local listings).

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Gameday: (5) Florida Gators at (8) Arizona

Location: McKale Center – Tucson, AZ [Capacity: 14,538]
Time: 10:00 p.m. EDT

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Dave Pasch, Miles Simon)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

No. 5 FLORIDA GATORS No. 8 ARIZONA WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Sean Miller
Record: 7-0 Record: 7-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Pacific-12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -1.5 | O/U 134.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 2-1 all-time against Arizona and 2-0 under Donovan. UF has won eight-straight games against Pac-12 opponents and are 11-9 all-time against the conference including 8-2 under Donovan. UA has lost three-straight games to SEC foes.
» This is the first time that two top-10 teams will meet in the McKale Center since 2004.
» Four of the Gators’ regular starters are averaging double figures.
» Florida has held five of its seven opponents to 49 points or fewer. The Gators have only given up 26+ points in a single half twice in 14 total halves this campaign.
» UF dominated in its season opener, holding Alabama State to just nine first-half points and setting a school record in the shot clock era for fewest allowed in a half.
» Florida is 32-1 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game.
» The Gators were just 3-5 against top-25 opponents last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams. UF is currently scheduled to take on seven top-25 opponents as part of the 2012-13 campaign and is already 1-0 in such games.
» Florida is second nationally in scoring defense (48.3 points), third in scoring margin (+25.3 points) and seventh in field goal percentage defense (.349).
» The Gators are second nationally in fouling, committing 13.1 per game, and 134th nationally in assists, dishing just 13.7 per game.
» Arizona ranks 10th in rebound margin (+11.4), while Florida checks in at 13th (+10.7) in that category nationally.
» The Wildcats get most of their offense from three starters that combine for 39.3 points and 9.4 assists per game. All three shoot better than 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.
» Arizona has four players that average 4.4-6.7 rebounds per game each.

Read the rest of the Florida-Arizona preview…more after the break!
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