There’s one thing that’s been tempering Gator fans excitement about the basketball team as they head into the NCAA tournament.
Close game situations.
Set aside the loss at Arkansas this season, every Gator loss has been by less then 10 points. On top of that, Florida held a second half lead in every one of those sub-10 point losses and seemed to flounder late in the game in almost every facet. Most recently was the Gators loss to Ole Miss’ in the SEC championship game, in which Florida held a 12-point halftime lead yet still couldn’t close out the win. When asked about the late game collapse against Ole Miss on Monday, Donovan said he looks at things differently
“Maybe it’s just me doing it for as long as I’ve done it, but I was much much more alarmed with our defense. We got the shots we wanted. Got to the free throw line, whereas, maybe earlier in the year I wasn’t totally happy with the shot selection. I was more disappointed in our defense.”
Donovan certainly has a point. After holding the Rebels to 26 points and 41.4% shooting in the first half Sunday, the Gators defense became uncharacteristically porous during the second half, allowing Ole Miss to drop 40 points and shoot at a 53.6% clip. Despite the attitude of many Gator fans, Donovan still feels his team is capable of closing out a tight game in the NCAA Tournament.
“These guys keep getting better and better and better. They work at it and care. The biggest issue I brought up with some of those games during the regular season was we turned the ball over way too much. The Alabama game your down by 10 points, that’s a close game. Sometimes people look at the score and say that’s not a close game. I feel confident but hey, listen, their going to have to make the plays on the court they need to make.”
The solace in the Alabama game is somewhat dimmed considering the Tide have suffered several late game collapses themselves over the course of their season. Florida fought back in both games against the Tide this season after falling behind in the second half.
Their may not be anything that sticks out specifically for Florida’s late game collapses because the shots Florida are getting in the final ten minutes of a game are not any different from the ones in the first thirty. They all look to be makeable shots that for whatever reason don’t find the bottom of the net. Call it a lack of heart, call it bad luck, call it whatever you want, at the end of the day the Gators have yet to win a game decided by less than ten points.
“Do I see our guys as tight, scared, petrified, nervous? No, but their going to have to make those plays.”
As the Gators begin their road to Atlanta friday against Northwestern State, the highest scoring team in the country, a test may present itself to this Florida team sooner rather then later. Whenever the next tight game comes to the Gators doorstep let’s hope lady luck finds herself back on the Florida sideline.