Finney-Smith forgets struggles to clinch win

The first 39:59 in the O'Connell Center were forgettable for Dorian Finney-Smith. His shot wasn't falling, he turned it over twice and Billy Donovan thought he played without energy. The last second made up for it all. Finney-Smith fought for his 10th rebound of the game and was fouled, hitting a free throw to give No. 15 Florida a 67-66 win over Florida State before a sellout crowd on Friday.

Finney-Smith added two missed dunks that came without a Florida State player touching him. His tough night continued, and after the second missed dunk, Donovan pulled him out of the game. He didn't like what he was seeing.

"Move on," Billy Donovan recalled telling Finney-Smith. "You're draining energy from me. I'm having a hard time coaching and watching you walk off the floor like that."

And that's what Finney-Smith did. The adversity didn't stop then, though. After he corralled the loose ball when Scottie Wilbekin's shot rimmed out with one second left and was fouled, the redshirt sophomore missed his first free throw. With the weight of a sold-out O'Connell Center on him with 1.3 seconds left on the clock, Finney-Smith was able to relax and knock it down with some helpful words from a teammate.

Before the first one, Florida center Patric Young put his arm around Finney-Smith and told him to "be great." After the first free throw clanked out, those words meant even more to Finney-Smith.

"The teammates had a lot of confidence I was going to knock it down," Dorian Finney-Smith said. "I just went up there like every day in practice and shot with confidence."

The win pushed Florida's winning streak over Florida State to five games. Donovan is 12-6 against the Seminoles in his career.

The effort from Dorian Finney-Smith was almost wiped out by a last-second, half-court heave by Florida State guard Ian Miller that hit the back of the rim and went out as time expired. The Seminoles called timeout after the second free throw went through and drew up a play to get the hands in guard Ian Miller.

Miller caught the ball close to the half court and launched a prayer that was almost answered.

"Our guys played it just like we wanted them to," Donovan said. "We wanted (Florida State) to inbound the basketball in front of half court, and that's what we did. His back was to the basket, took one dribble and threw a desperation shot that almost went it. If it goes in, you've got to live with it. He almost made one heck of a shot."

Friday night was about overcoming for the Gators. The entire night was a struggle, especially on the offensive end of the floor. Florida finished the night shooting 37.7 percent (23-61) from the field but hampered itself from the free throw line, shooting 62.5 percent (15-24).

The Gators scored 31 points in the first half and managed to secure 36 in the second half.

"It was a really ugly game for us and give Florida State credit, they probably had something to do with that. I didn't think we played great or take advantage of what was there."

Friday was Florida's first win by five points or less since beating Alabama in the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals.

The Gators will play at No. 13 Connecticut on Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.


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