Florida basketball score: Gators fall short as No. 10 Michigan State edges out tough win

By Adam Silverstein
December 8, 2018
Florida basketball score: Gators fall short as No. 10 Michigan State edges out tough win

Image Credit: Kelly Chase / UAA Communications

The Florida Gators were looking to pick up consecutive wins against major-conference opponents for the first time this season but fell just short of doing so Saturday in a 63-59 loss to the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. It was a tough defensive effort by the Gators (5-4), who are creeping up on a .500 record now one month into the season.

Let’s take a look at what went down in Florida’s latest loss.

It was over when … Michigan State guard Kyle Ahrens dunked the ball with 8 seconds remaining. The Spartans recovered a loose ball and Ahrens threw it down just before the clock expired to give the visitors a four-point lead and make a comeback nearly impossible for the Gators save for a fouled three-point attempt. Ahrens was silent all game but scored all seven of his points in the final three minutes of the game. “We didn’t get on the floor for that loose ball, like several others, [but] they did. They deserved to win,” White said after the game. He later added: “I’d like for them to get frustrated about those things. I’m not sure they are [bothered] about making the same mistake over and over and expecting a different result. It’s insane. It’s got to be more important to us when we don’t get on the floor for a loose ball and the other team gets it.”

Florida never held a lead in the second half and did not obtain one at all after allowing a 14-2 run to break a 5-0 advantage at the start of the game as it went nearly eight minutes — yes, eight minutes — without a basket. MSU led for 36:22 of the contest and was always able to keep UF at bay despite some solid second-half shooting around the basket.

Shooting woes continue: This team simply cannot score. For the third time in four games and fifth time this season, Florida shot under 40 percent from the field (.365). It also made just 6-of-24 triples, the sixth time this season it has been unable to make 30 percent from downtown (.250). This is especially an issue against quality teams as these woes have reared their ugly heads primarily against Florida State, Oklahoma, Butler, West Virginia and now Michigan State. The Gators did manage to go 13-for-29 from the floor (.448) in the second half, but they only made 3-of-11 threes (.273) with multiple missed opportunities despite open looks.

Exceptional efforts: Freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard stood out for Florida, this time as a scorer. Nembhard posted a career-high 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting; however, he only had three assists on the game (due to his teammates missing shots) and three rare turnovers. Matching Nembhard with 13 points was senior G KeVaughn Allen, who hit half of UF’s threes going 3-for-9 from long range. Freshman forward Keyontae Johnson showed out again with six points, five rebounds and two blocks.

Odds and ends: The Gators shot 12 more shots than the Spartans but made three fewer baskets … UF’s .583 mark from the free throw line is its second-worst of the season … MSU outscored the hosts 36-26 in the paint and doubled their assists total (14-7) … Florida is now 3-5 all-time against Michigan State and 1-1 at home with consecutive losses (Dec. 12, 2015) … the Gators football team walked into the O’Dome — in full pads — for the final four minutes of the game in a move that I’ve certainly never seen before

What it means: Another good opponent, another loss. It’s clear that there is talent on the roster, but the loss of redshirt senior G Jalen Hudson — he’s playing, just completely in effective — has affected the team’s ability to compete and score against the best teams the Gators have faced. Hudson went 1-for-3 from the field in 15 minutes, barely seeing the court in the second half. He has played 21 combined minutes in the last two games and averaged just 12.2 minutes of action over the last five. It’s not all on him, of course. Florida is struggling to score as a team, and head coach Mike White does not seem to be implementing much offense with the group — either that, or they’re not listening to his instructions. This is a young team, and there are going to be a lot of growing pains, but things are not going to get any easier coming up in SEC play as the league is filled with top 25 teams. This might be heading for a repeat of the 2014-15 campaign.

Up next: Florida will host Mercer on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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