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).