Gators fade late at Missouri

Tuesday had a familiar feeling to it. The Gators held a 13-point lead halfway through the second half, but they weren't able to close the game out on the road at Missouri. No. 5 Florida struggled from the free throw line, turned the ball over and saw defensive lapses down the stretch, allowing the Tigers to get back in the game and eventually secure a 63-60 win over the Gators.

"It was disappointing for several reasons," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his postgame radio show. "Our guys came with the right mindset and ready to play. We got an 11 or 12-point lead, and then they outscored us by 16. Our defense, as the game wore on, broke down, broke down and broke down. We had to switch to zone, which was effective and bought us time."

As the game broke down for the Gators, they still had a chance to win it. With 1:39 left to play, Scottie Wilbekin tried to penetrate, twirled off a screen and drilled an off-balance three-pointer to give the Gators a 60-59 lead. However, as was a problem late in the second half, Florida couldn't get a stop.

Missouri forward Laurence Bowers hit a jump shot to give the Tigers a one-point lead with 1:15 left to play.

The Gators had a shot to win it with 18 seconds. Florida dribbled the ball around the perimeter before senior guard Kenny Boynton launched a long, off balance three-pointer that didn't fall. Florida fouled Junior Cadougan, who made both free throws, but senior guard Mike Rosario airballed a three-pointer that would've tied the game.

There was blame to go around on all areas of the floor, but Boynton's shot left Donovan wondering.

"That's not what we wanted," Donovan said. "We wanted a drive to the basket. We don't want that. You're hoping the ball comes in. They're up one and not wanting to foul. You've got to put the ball on the floor and try to drive it. We settled for taking a very difficult shot."

The bad three-pointers were a theme on Tuesday. The Gators took 54 shot from the field at Missouri and 33 of them were from behind the three-point line. Donovan said during the week that he was fine with his team taking a high number of three-pointers if they were good shots.

He didn't think that was the case in Columbia. And despite how many times he pointed it out, the Florida players didn't stop. Mike Rosario, who led the Gators with 14 points, tried to use a shot fake to create other shots, but he was one of the few that did.

"They were flying at us," Donovan said. "We could've shot faked, put the ball on the floor and attacked the rim. We were just letting them go. Early in the game, they were going under our screens and we got wide open looks. Then they stopped doing that. We needed to drive the ball and didn't. We talked about it at halftime and just about every timeout.

"Offensively, it was one of the poorest games we've played. Our ball movement was really bad."

The Gators allowed Missouri to shoot 43.4% from the field, but the issue came late in the game. There are plenty of excuses for why Florida's defense could struggle late in games. The Gators are running a seven-man rotation with the injury to Will Yeguete, so players are getting tired earlier in games.

"We just couldn't get stops when we needed to get stops," Donovan said. "We did such a good job for about 30 minutes, but we've got to find a way to be resilient and fight through those situations."

The Gators now return home to face Arkansas on Saturday at 7 p.m. Donovan shouldn't have trouble motivating his team after Florida was upset in Fayetteville earlier this month.

"It's a team that we lost to on the road," Donovan said. "We'll have to regroup. They're a good basketball team that beat us handedly in Fayetteville."


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