Jacksonville Upsets the Gators

The Gators proved again on Monday afternoon that they struggle to handle success. After young Florida teams have sputtered when they received headlines over the past three seasons, this year's older team planned to change that. Instead, after knocking off No. 6 Kansas State on Saturday, the No. 20 Gators were upset in overtime at home by Jacksonville, 71-68.

"It was really a disappointing performance all around," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his postgame radio show. "You've got older guys and come out of a game like Kansas State, and we tried to talk to them about Jacksonville. I probably didn't do a good enough job as a coach putting them more on edge and making them concerned. Not that coaches need to do that, but for whatever reason, they were not hearing our message about what this game was going to be like."

From the opening tip, the Gators looked out of sync. The offensive struggles weren't a shock to anyone after the team's inability to score this season. On Monday, the offense had no rhythm and couldn't score down low, missing multiple easy layups from the big men.

It was the first time Jacksonville beat the Gators since 1994.

The Gators shot 35.6% from the field, but they made only 30.8% of their shots in the second half.

"That's what we've been for the last three years. We can get our hopes up that we're going to be this breakthrough team, but more often than not, we're going to do something to bring us back down. I thought today was a huge game for us to make a huge step as a team. I was anxious to see our team's maturity. Basically, I found out where it's at."

Florida turned the ball over 17 times, and they did so seemingly every time the Gators had a big possession.

Florida had a two-point lead and the ball with 24 seconds remaining when Ayron Hardy stole the ball from Chandler Parsons and finished with a dunk to tie the game. Florida had a final possession before regulation ended, but Erving Walker dribbled around and threw up an off-balance three-pointer, which hit harmlessly off the side of the backboard.

When the turnovers weren't killing the Gators, it was shot selection. Florida reached a 56-49 lead, its biggest of the game, in the second half. After that, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons each missed a three-pointer on consecutive possessions. It was each player's only three-point attempt of the game.

While Florida players were launching off-balance threes, Jacksonville went on a 7-0 run to tie the game with 4:04 left in the game.

"Time and score didn't dictate (Tyus) was open. If it goes in, great. It's probably not the best of shots. This is what's hard to me as a coach. This is a group of great kids, but they do more things to sabotage themselves with decisions and things we do. We almost break out own momentum. We do things that take the crowd and team out of it. When we're dealing with a lot of older guys, I'm not sure much is going to change.

The Gators had 20 more free throws attempts than Jacksonville. They outrebounded the Dolphins by 17. Those stats usually are indicative of a team winning a game, but instead, the Florida turnovers cost them a win.

"Those turnovers are carelessness with the ball," Donovan said. "How can we have 13 turnovers in the first half and come back and have four in the second half? It's not like I'm making these masterful adjustments at halftime to revamp our offense. It's a focus and understanding. It's a level of being aware and a lackadaisical attitude we had."

The Gators went 3-for-6 from the free throw line in overtime and continued to play sloppy. Kenny Boynton, who didn't start after being late to practice Sunday, threw a sloppy pass in the backcourt with 1:34 remaining in overtime, and it was stolen and converted by Delwan Graham to give the Dolphins a one-point lead.

While the Gators struggled to make free throws late, the Dolphins were clutch. Keith McDougald went 4-for-4 in the final 32 seconds of the game to clinch the Jacksonville win.

"He's a very confident young man," Jacksonville head coach Cliff Warren said on the television broadcast. "He's played against a lot of Florida guys before, so he wanted the ball in his hands. We gave it to him, and he made the free throws."

The Gators return to action Wednesday night at 7 p.m. when they host Radford.

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