Florida sees season end with offensive issues

The Gators looked poised to cruise to the national title game after the first 11 minutes on Saturday. Florida rushed out to a 16-4 lead, giving Connecticut problems on both ends of the floor. That's when the Huskies' defense put the clamps on the Gators, slowing Scottie Wilbekin's patented drives into the paint before finishing a 63-53 win over Florida.

The win ended the Gators' season and snapped their 30-game winning streak, ending the careers of Florida's four-man senior class that departs with the most wins in school history.

"I think that we have been a team where the whole has been better than the parts," Billy Donovan said on his memories of this team. "When you break us down individually, we're not the most talented group, but when you stick us together collectively, we're really good."

The early part of the game showcased the best defense Florida has played this season, holding Connecticut to four points in the first 11:08 of the first half. The Gators' 16-4 lead to start the game was answered with a 16-4 run by the Huskies to square the game at 20.

But the Connecticut success was jumpstarted by its defense. The Huskies got stops, putting them in transition and creating chances for point guard Shabazz Napier to get to the basket or create opportunities for his teammates. Connecticut took a 25-22 lead into halftime.

Florida's veteran team has thrived on second-half runs, but Connecticut erased any hopes of that with an 8-3 run to start the second half and seize momentum. The Gators cut the lead to three points one final time at 43-40 with 8:03 left to play, but the Huskies outscored them by eight points the rest of the way to erase any hope of a comeback.

"Once they got their defense set, we had a hard time handling their pressure up top, keeping the ball moving and getting in the lane," Donovan said. "We struggled."

Patric Young (19 points and five rebounds) and Casey Prather (15 points and six rebounds) were the only two Florida players that played up to their standards. Scottie Wilbekin's strong NCAA Tournament play was halted by cramps that bothered him to start the second half. His Florida career ended on Saturday with just four points on 2-9 shooting.

The strangest game came from sophomore Michael Frazier. He started the game with a three-pointer to give the Gators the lead, but he ended the game just 1-3 from the field. His three-pointer was the only one the Gators would hit on the night.

"On offense, we just couldn't get anything going," Wilbekin said. "They were being really aggressive and we couldn't get into our offense. We weren't moving it as well. A couple of us were having rough shooting nights. The shots that we did get, we couldn't get them to fall."

The offensive struggles occurred because of a lack of ball movement. Wilbekin's lack of explosion kept him out of the paint, keeping the Connecticut guards swarming on Frazier. The ball movement also struggled. The Gators had just three assists on 19 made field goals.

"It's crazy," Wilbekin said about the three assists. "It's not usually what we do. All credit goes to their guards for how they were denying and pressuring us. When we would get by them, we wouldn't keep the ball too tight. We were just being too loose with it."

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