After holding onto a 13-point lead into the second half, the Florida Gators went into pure collapse yet again.
The UConn Huskies (7-5) went on a 10-0 comeback run during a Florida five minute scoring drought to defeat the Gators (7-6) 63-59 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Saturday afternoon.
Florida led the entire game up until five minutes to go left in regulation after Huskies’ guard Rodney Purvis nailed a 3-pointer. UConn would never look back.
“We got hurt from the three-point line and our inability to rebound the ball in crucial situations hurt us and obviously the free throw line we were not consistent,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “There is a competitive disposition that we do not have and we have to make a commitment to it.”
Crucial free throws with under a minute to play in the game cost the Gators an opportunity to fix their late game mishaps and try to send the game into overtime or win.
But UConn proved worthy of making that shots that mean the most as guard Ryan Boatright, who had an up and down game, sank four shots without missing to drown Florida.
“I knew this game could save our season,” Boatright said. “There was no way I was going to sit out and let that slip by.”
The Gators had everything they needed to come out with a win to start 2015, especially after playing a great first half of shooting 50 percent, dishing 11 assists and fantastic ball movement to establish a secure lead.
But mentally not committing to their game plan cost them overall and it’s a factor that has remained with this team throughout the season. Including a combined four missed free throws under a minute by Alex Murphy and Chris Walker.
“We don’t do enough things on a consistent basis to put ourselves in a position to win,” Donovan said. “For our basketball team, it’s much more mental than it is physical. There is a mental, competitive spirit that you must have and our team does not have it.”
At this point, Donovan only sees really three players who are consistently bringing their game and actually getting what it takes to win. He mentioned Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill and Michael Frazier II are the guys on the team who are doing a lot of heavy lifting and it has been overwhelming for them.
Finney-Smith scored 19 points, Frazier added eight and Hill seven, but the lack of needing other players to step up on a consistent basis has been lacking.
As a result, the Gators took back-to-back losses to end their non-conference schedule and are now 0-3 against UConn in the last three matchups.
It has been a frustrating and challenging run this season thus far for the Gators and some players are feeling the emotions of not coming out on top.
“This year’s team, everyone is not bought in into winning,” forward Chris Walker said. “Everyone is not bought in listening to coach D (Donovan) and last year’s team everybody was connected.”