Fastbreak: Florida basketball season ends as Texas Tech holds off Gators late

By Adam Silverstein
March 17, 2018
Fastbreak: Florida basketball season ends as Texas Tech holds off Gators late
Basketball

Image Credit: ESPN Images

In an up-and-down game that was a microcosm of their up-and-down season, six-seed Florida Gators basketball (21-13) was eliminated from the 2018 NCAA Tournament by the three-seed Texas Tech Red Raiders (26-9). The game went down to the final seconds with Florida unable to drain a much-needed three late in the game to fall 69-66 in Dallas.

Let’s take a look at Saturday’s season-ending loss in Fastbreak:


It was over when … With less than 30 seconds to play, senior point guard Chris Chiozza drove the length of the court for a layup to cut Florida’s deficit to three and immediately forced a turnover to give the Gators one final possession. Unfortunately, despite Chiozza making a great pass and redshirt sophomore guard Keith Stone grabbing a clutch offensive rebound, graduate transfer G Egor Koulechov and junior G KeVaughn Allen missed a pair of open three-pointers before the buzzer sounded.

First half focus: Two of the nation’s best defensive teams opened the game with a show of offense, and Florida ran up a seven-point lead with a 7-0 run while starting 10-of-14 from the field and 3-for-4 from downtown. However, UF went cold as it is wont to do, allowing a 10-0 run for Texas Tech while missing seven straight baskets and not scoring a point for 5:14. The Gators ultimately made just three of its final 14 attempts to end the half with Koulechov’s tip-drill buzzer-beating layup giving the lower seed a one-point advantage at the break.

Second half sendoff: It was Florida in control most of the first half, but it played from behind nearly the entire final 20 minutes as Texas Tech got off to a hot start. Though the Gators did lead at one point, a horrendous fouling disparity (the Red Raiders were in the bonus for the final 13:23 and 10 fouls were called on UF in the first 9:39 of the second half) gave the higher seed an opportunity to pull ahead. With Chiozza on the bench waiting out four fouls, Texas Tech used a 15-2 run to go up 58-50 as Florida went 1-for-10 from the field. Redshirt junior G Jalen Hudson scored six straight points, and Koulechov made a clutch layup to tie the game at 64, but that was basically it. Up three, Keenan Evans broke down Florida’s defense for an alley oop to put Texas Tech up five with 29.4 seconds to play.

Exceptional efforts: Hudson struggled from long range and at the line, but the Gators would not have been in the game without him as he scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting. It was just the third time this season that Florida lost a game with Hudson scoring 17 or more. Stone was clutch with a game-high 10 rebounds but did not get many opportunities to score on the evening with just seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.

Odds and ends: Chiozza missed eight straight shots and only played 27 minutes in his final game with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting with only three assists … Koulechov went just 2-for-8 from downtown but did score 12 points … Allen continued his awful shooting run with seven points while making just 2-of-11 attempts … Florida went 11-for-33 from the field and 2-for-11 from three in the second half; it is nearly impossible to overcome shooting that poor in such an important game … the Red Raiders had the assisting edge (17-11) but the Gators dominated fastbreaks (13-4) … fouling was a hot topic all game with Texas Tech having a drastic edge for the majority of the contest, but ultimately it wound up just 14-18

What it means: Florida failed to advance to the Sweet 16 (or Elite Eight) of an NCAA Tournament for the first time in six tries since 2010. The Gators are now 4-2 in The Big Dance under head coach Mike White and 1-1 in second-round games (10-4 all-time). Florida had won seven straight Round of 32 games, though Saturday was the first time in 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments that UF was not the higher seed in a game.

Up next: Chiozza and Koulechov are gone. Whether Hudson joins them and declares early for the NBA remains to be seen.

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