Florida loses heartbreaker in Tallahassee

The teams seemed poised for overtime when Devon Bookert’s shot looked short out of his hand.

Florida walk-on Jacob Kurtz jumped up to secure the basketball and head to overtime. Instead, the ball bounced out of his hands and into the basket with 0.4 seconds left. Florida tried to full-court pass before time expired but the ball went out of bounds, securing a 65-63 loss to Florida State.

It snapped Florida’s five-game winning streak over the Seminoles.

“I really feel bad for Jake Kurtz,” Billy Donovan said on his post game radio show. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have had a chance to even be in the game. He did so many great things. For him to give that kind of effort and have that happen to him, it’s just a fluke play at the end.”

The last-second play wouldn’t have been possible without Kurtz. Florida had the ball 22 seconds left while trailing by two points. After freshman Devin Robinson missed a 3-pointer from the corner, Kurtz chased down a loose ball to keep the possession alive. He threw it to Kasey Hill, who launched a pass to Dorian Finney-Smith under the rim for the game-tying layup with nine seconds left.

The last-second mistake overshadowed an impressive Florida comeback. The Gators trailed by five points with 1:06 left to play but fought back to tie it at the under-four minute media timeout. Hill took over to bring Florida back, hitting two free throws to cut it to three, and after two Florida State free throws, Hill completed a three-point play to cut the deficit to two points with 44 seconds left.

The sophomore point guard ended the game with 17 points (7-9 FG, 3-3 FT), four rebounds and three assists.

A season-high 17 turnovers ended up being Florida’s undoing. The Gators also fouled 17 times, and Florida State ’s 25 free throw attempts were 12 more than Florida shot.

“There’s just too many errors during the course of the game where there’s just not a level of consistency by enough guys,” Donovan said. “We’re not talented enough to have much of a margin for error.”

Add poor shooting to the turnovers and fouls, and it was a perfect recipe for Florida to be upset.

“We really had a hard time putting the ball in the basket, just calling it like it is,” Donovan said. “A lot of guys were 1-6, 1-7, 4-12. We had pretty good looks, moved and shared the basket, and did some pretty good things.”

Tuesday was Florida’s first game with nine scholarship players available, but that lasted four minutes of action. Eli Carter limped off the floor after playing only one minute while favoring his leg. Donovan had no update after the game and isn’t sure how serious the injury is, but Carter did return to the team bench.

It’s the first time the Seminoles have beat Florida in football and basketball since 1996.

The Gators return home to face defending national champion Connecticut on Saturday at 2 p.m. on CBS.

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