Prior to Tuesday, No. 5 Florida had played in 24 games, winning 21 of them.
Of the victories, not a single one was by less than double-digit points. Not one.
The Gators have shown all year they know how to win big but have yet to show they can pull out a close one when the pressure is on.
The unfortunate trend continued in Mizzou Arena, as the Gators blew a 13-point second half lead to drop a heartbreaker to Missouri, 63-60.
Missouri (19-7, 8-5 SEC) hadn’t lost at home all season long before Tuesday’s matchup, and the game against the Gators (21-4, 11-2 SEC) was circled on Tigers’ fans calendars since Florida destroyed Mizzou, 83-52, in January.
On that afternoon, the Tigers were without their leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who UF coach Billy Donovan had described as a do-it-all player.
Bowers was intent on making up for his earlier absence on Tuesday, as the senior forward paced the Tigers with 17 points and 10 rebounds, game highs for both teams in both categories.
The Tigers had yet to lead the Gators until a Phil Pressey layup gave them their first advantage with 2:51 remaining. It was Bowers however, who put the Tigers up for good with a jumper from the elbow with 1:19 remaining.
Florida didn’t played spectacularly by any means during the night, but the Gators were doing just enough to get by in a tough road environment. With Will Yeguete out, Florida was looking for ways to contend with Missouri’s physical frontcourt and found help in the form of Casey Prather, who finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
However, the Gators got little help from starters Erik Murphy and Patric Young, who combined for only 10 points and six rebounds. The Gators’ post presence also wasn’t helped by the vast number of 3-point attempts Florida settled for early on in the game.
Although the Gators were able to hit long-range shots early on, eventually the heat from behind the arc fizzled, as Florida would finish an underwhelming 33 percent on 10-of-33 shooting.
Florida was better from the field, shooting 40 percent on 22 of 54 attempts, but the Gators suffered from more than just poor shooting down the stretch, as questionable decision making and a lack of execution also did them in.
Missouri was never out of the game, but there was no question who was in control for the majority. The Gators had chances to put the game away and led by 10 with 9:59 left on the clock.
After Florida’s first deficit of the night on Pressey’s layup, the Gators immediately answered with a Scottie Wilbekin spin move and step back for a 3-pointer to put UF back up one.
Bowers would put the Tigers back up with his jumper, but even then, Florida had an opportunity to regain the lead. However, a poor decision by veteran senior Kenny Boynton to jack up a well-contested 3-point attempt backfired in a major way.
The ball clanked off the rim and was quickly collected by Keion Bell, as the sold out crowd in Mizzou Arena erupted.
Florida also feel victim to a string of missed free throws late in the second half as well and finished 50 percent from the line, but it was clear that a lack of focus defensively also did the Gators in down the stretch.
This game will eerily remind fans of the Arizona loss in December, when again, the Gators led for virtually the entire game only to blow it in the closing moments.
As well as Florida has played all year, it’s clear this Gators team is still with major flaws and kinks to work out before tournament time.
With Yeguete out, the Gators will need to explore as many options as possible in finding a post-presence, as the signature balance the team has been known for this year was non-existent on Tuesday.
Mike Rosario led all Florida scorers with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Boynton would finish with 11 on 4-of-13 shooting, while Michael Frazier II would round out the double-figure scoring with 10 points, six of which coming off 3-pointers.
The Gators will have some time off before their next game, a Saturday home date with the only other SEC team to beat them, Arkansas.