Missouri gave the ball away.
Florida gave the game away.
Despite turning the Tigers over 19 times and building a second-half lead a large as 13 points, the Gators let apparent victory slip through their grasp, falling 63-60 on Tuesday night in Mizzou Arena. In a late swoon reminiscent of an earlier loss to Arizona, Florida may again blame itself more so than the opposition.
“There were a lot of things that we could have controlled,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “And I am not trying to take anything away from Missouri. They played a very good game, but there were a lot of things that we could have controlled that we didn’t do in the game to put ourselves in a position to win.”
Among the “a lot of things” was certainly foul shooting, or in this case, foul missing. Florida, which entered the contest ranked 12th in the conference in free-throw shooting percentage, was finally stung by a subpar performance from the stripe. The Gators shot a paltry 5 of 10 from the line, while the conference’s leader, Missouri, hit 12 of its 15 attempts.
“I thought the other thing that really hurt us was the free throw line,” Donovan said. “We missed, I think, three front ends of one-and-one’s. We left a lot of points out there on the board.”
While the Gators left points, Missouri scored them, especially when rallying late in the contest. After holding the Tigers to a mere 26 first half points, Florida’s defense crumbled down the stretch, allowing two points shy of that total in the game’s final 10 minutes.
“It’s probably not fair due to the lack of depth, but our defense as the game wore on broke down, broke, broke down, broke down,” Donovan said “Inevitably, we had to switch to zone, which was effective for us and bought us some time. But defensively, we couldn’t get stops when we needed to get stops.”
Though the defense broke down, the offense never seemed to get started. Florida built a lead in spite of its cold shooting and often-ineffective offense.
“Offensively, it was one of our poorest games that we played — 10 assists, 14 turnovers,” Donovan said. “I thought our ball movement was really bad.”
Florida was particularly bad from the 3-point line, making only 10 of its whopping 33 attempts. The latter figure drew the ire of the Gators coach.
“I thought we could have shot faked, put the ball on the floor, driven and attacked the paint,” Donovan said. “That is why we had such a low assist number.”
It was a problem that plagued Florida until the bitter end. The Gators trailed by a single point when they took possession with 19 seconds remaining. That sequence ended with a difficult, missed 3-point attempt by Kenny Boynton.
“With 19 seconds, that is definitely not what we wanted,” Donovan said. “We wanted to drive to the basket. We don’t want that. We tried to put the ball back in Scottie’s hands to make a play. We talked about driving the ball. They are not going to want to foul you. You have got to put the ball on the floor. You have got to drive it.”
Instead, Florida drives home with a frustrating defeat.