For much of the game Florida was crisp offensively but when they were in dire need of makes late in the second half they went ice cold allowing South Carolina to hold on for a 72-66 win. Florida had opportunities to come back as the Gamecocks missed shots and the front end of a key one and one but Florida was unable to capitalize with a pair of missed free throws from Tyree Appleby and some desperation jumpers from Tre Mann that couldn’t find the net. Leading for most of the game the Gators were looking somewhat comfortable but were never able to stretch the margin and a frantic series of buckets by the Gamecocks with under 4 minutes left was ultimately the difference. As it currently stands, this is a quadrant three loss for the Gators–about as rough as a loss you can take on your NCAA Tournament resume. Things won’t get much easier as the Gators take on LSU for the second meeting of the season Saturday.
Starting Big, Ending Small
Florida once again started the season with Omar Payne next to Colin Castleton in the frontcourt, a combo that has made for some outstanding lineups. They played well, leading to Florida being ahead for much of the game. However, what did the Gators in was a small lineup of Tre Mann-Tyree Appleby-Noah Locke-Scottie Lewis-Colin Castleton that gave up the huge 10-3 run that was ultimately the difference in the game. Looking at lineup data, Florida’s starters have had +17 net rating on the season (which is outstanding for those of you who aren’t inclined towards advanced stats). The lineup that squandered the lead? They’ve had a -7 net rating on the season. Unfortunately, their poor play in the clutch time of this game likely could have been predicted, at least from a statistical standpoint.
Coming Down To Earth
Shooting threes has been a huge strength of the Gators this year as they entered the game as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country at 38%. However, after a series of hot shooting games, their luck came to an end against South Carolina. They went 7-25 (28%) and not only were they inefficient on these shots but when they really needed one to fall they weren’t able to get it, despite some decent looks in the clutch. Three-point shooting is always going to be more inconsistent than reliable buckets on the inside and unfortunately the Gators got bit by the cold shooting bug on Wednesday.
If there was one bright spot of the game for the Gators it was the play of Colin Castleton who has continued to be a revelation for this team. He finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds, which is solid, but it was his 7 blocks that jump off the page. Had he not been able to get his hands on that many shots the score could have gotten lopsided in South Carolina’s favor and he saved his team’s bacon on a number of possessions where things broke down but he recovered to the rim for a swat. Florida has had some issues with consistency this season but that hasn’t been due to the play of Castleton.
Sadly, following up a big win against a great team with a heartbreaking loss against a lesser opponent is something that has become a bit of a recurring storyline in the Mike White era. This hasn’t been the first time the Gators have come out flat after a big win, and it’s something that will need to be corrected if the Gators want to reach their ceiling, whatever that may be. They now have a difficult scout against a talented LSU team that they have already played this season. The Tigers will offer the Gators a chance at a quality win, something they’ll need after taking this bad loss.