Watching the broadcast of the Miami Hurricanes-Florida Gators basketball game on campus, a fellow student passed by and asked if they could watch the game with me. I obliged and they grabbed a seat, only to be frustrated with what they saw.
It was around the 3:48 mark in the second half, and Miami had taken the lead with a pair of Tonye Jekiri free throws. As Florida continued to miss shots and Miami began to heat up, she looked at the screen as if the Gators’ win had Pell Grant ramifications on it.
“We can’t lose,” she said.
But Florida did, 69-67. The Hurricanes’ victory sparked a late run initiated by Miami point guard Angel Rodriguez, who scored 24 points.
At the end of the game, a friend of person I was sharing my viewing experience with was told about the loss. He was dumbfounded, surprised that Florida lost to Miami, despite the injury to Dorian Finney-Smith and talented Hurricane guards.
My confusion as to why this loss was taken so hard was explained shortly thereafter.
“It just sucks, we lost in football and now we lost in basketball,” she said.
It’s been a rough few days in Gainesville. The Gators’ football team lost a heartbreaker to South Carolina on Saturday. The defeat ultimately was the final straw for head coach Will Muschamp, as it was announced the next day Muschamp would step down after this season. After Monday made gloomy by the weather and an emotional press conference that featured Dr. Bernie Machen, Jeremy Foley and Muschamp, Gator fans were looking for some good news from the basketball team.
I understand, but it’s important to keep the two sports and the emotions behind them separate.
While there are issues the Gators basketball team needs to work on, such as stronger second halves and possibly conditioning, the Gators were playing with a thin roster, made even weaker with the absence of Dorian Finney-Smith. The forward was dressed to play before the game but two hairline fractures in his middle and index fingers made simple things like catching the ball painful.
In his Finney-Smith’s place, Jacob Kurtz received his first start of his career, scoring 6 points and taking down 8 rebounds. Jon Horford stepped up with 17 points, going 5-9 from the field and 3-6 from three-point range. Horford also had 7 rebounds.
The Gators also played a Miami team that, just like Florida, will look different than they do now in a few months. The team is still looking to build cohesion with the addition of transfer players Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, both of whom can score from many places on the court. This was especially the case for Rodriguez, who went 7-14 from the field, 5-8 from three-point range and 5-7 from the free throw line. Miami made plays towards the end of the game and will only get better as the season goes on.
And if nothing else, this was the second game of a 31-game regular season, not including the SEC Tournament.
The Gators are a young team, learning how to play with out the senior talent of last season. There will be some growing pains throughout the year, even when the team gets back forwards Chris Walker and Alex Murphy. However, the additions will allow to everyone to get back into their proper roles and not overextend the team. Kurtz played 36 minutes tonight. In comparison, he played 40 minutes all last year.
Even during the rough periods, the Gators men’s basketball team will be fine. They’ll be competitive, and, barring something unforeseen, will make the postseason. Florida is led by a coach who has proven for 18 seasons he knows what it takes to put a winning product on the court.
While the past few days haven’t been good for the football program, don’t let that affect how you perceive the basketball team. The two are on different ends of the spectrum.