Gators Can't Finish Comeback

Issues at the free throw line can bleed through an entire team. It's starting to take over the minds of Florida players. The Gators missed their final five free throws of the game and shot 55% from the line during the game, giving away points they needed. The outcome was a 72-69 loss to South Carolina Saturday at the O'Connell Center.

"It's real frustrating," said junior guard Erving Walker, who missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:09 left that could have given Florida the lead. "That's free points out there, especially down the stretch. We want to grab those points, but it didn't happen today."

Free throw shooting wasn't the issue in the first half as the Gators were 8-for-12, but they were 4-for-10 from the stripe in the second half. It's a problem that can start with one player, and before they know what happened, the entire team is struggling from the line.

Florida's frontcourt starters combined to go 6-for-14 from the line.

"The thing that killed us in the last three or four minutes of the game is we didn't make free throws," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "The free throw shooting hurt us."

The Gators went on a 10-0 run to tie the game in only 1:32 during the last minutes. It came on back-to-back three pointers from Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton. Erving Walker hit a layup and was fouled, but after missing the free throw, Alex Tyus got the rebound and put it back for the tie.

All of the energy that was wasted with a below average performance in the first half came alive in the O'Connell Center when it was tied.

South Carolina point guard Bruce Ellington then hit a floater in the lane and picked up an assist two possessions later. The freshman hit five straight free throws in the final 28 seconds to put the game away and ended the game with 23 points.

"He's great," Walker said. "He made clutch plays- big threes and big pull-ups. He's a real good player."

Florida was in a hole because of a brutal first half offensive performance. They shot 26.7% from the field in the first half and scored only 25 points. The frontcourt players attacked the basket early in the game, but they quickly found out that they should stop.

South Carolina forward Sam Muldrow has 16 blocks in his previous two SEC games, and he had three against the Gators. He attacked shots in the paint, helping the Gamecocks register six blocked shots in the first nine minutes of the game.

After that, the Florida offense went conservative. The frontcourt players were scared to attack, and when they did shoot, it was off balance or fading away.

"You're going to get your shot blocked," Macklin said. "You block some and you get dunked on sometimes, but he's a great shot blocker.

With shots not falling from the perimeter and Muldrow altering shots down low, the Florida offense looked lost. They passed the ball around the perimeter and sometimes didn't look like they knew what they wanted to do.

The Gamecocks went on a 15-2 run to take a 33-20 first half lead, and Florida trailed 35-25 at the half.

"(It was) our lack of understanding for how we needed to attack them offensively. We had way too many shots blocked. We had guys driving down the lane without a purpose and getting caught in the air. We didn't make the right decisions with the ball.

"Our lack of production on offense in the first half bled into us defensively. That was the thing that was most disappointing to me."

The Gators return to action Thursday night at 7 p.m. when they travel to Auburn.

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