Florida called a timeout with 38 seconds remaining in a tie game, and coach Billy Donovan drew up a play that opened the lane and gave Finney-Smith a chance to get to the rim. And he did in a big way. The junior’s thunderous dunk gave the Gators a 52-50 lead with 22 seconds left.
“We didn’t get much from Finney-Smith, although he made a great play down the stretch to put us up two and a great defensive play,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said on the postgame radio show. “And we didn’t get much out of Michael Frazier at all. He’s obviously dealing with the hip pointer and lower back issues from a fall the other day. He probably wasn’t himself.
“We still found a way to win. Hopefully this is building some connectivity and teamwork inside of us when we’ve got two veteran guys that didn’t have their best games.”
Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier, Florida’s leading scorers, combined to go 1-10 from the field with seven points. Frazier’s saw his school-record streak of 41 straight games with a made 3-pointer come to an end on Tuesday. The junior guard suffered a hip pointer in practice on Monday but fought through it to start.
Despite not much production from them, the Gators were still able to pull out a win.
But it wasn’t as easy as it looked in the first half. Florida took a 35-22 lead into the halftime, but it was down to single digits shortly after the first media timeout and stayed there for the rest of the game. The inability to hold a lead has been a problem throughout the season, and Donovan acknowledged it even after the win.
“It’s the theme with our team,” Donovan said. “I can say it after a win. We’re up 13, we come out and I’ve got to get guys off the floor and figure out who’s going to play with intensity and passion. We go through the first 12 minutes in the second half with seven points. Our first five possessions, we had four turnovers. There’s no consistency again.”
Donovan said on Monday that he wouldn’t consider a change at point guard, but when the game came down the stretch, Kasey Hill wasn’t in. He checked out of the game with 9:04 remaining and never returned. Donovan went with freshman Chris Chiozza because of what he brought to the defensive end of the floor.
“He gave us good minutes coming down the stretch,” Donovan said. “He did a good job with the pick-and-roll, he made some good decisions. Kasey picked up a couple fouls and was having a hard time defensively. Chiozza gave us good minutes.”
The Gators also got the best game of Chris Walker’s career. The sophomore came off the bench and had 12 points with four rebounds in 17 minutes. He added two blocks and went 6-8 from the field.
“He did a really good job,” Donovan said. “Our guys found him. He ran and did a good job of pick-and-roll coverage. He gave us really good bounce around the basket and did a good job with post defense. It was good to see him make a positive step moving forward.”
After playing three of its last four games on the road, Florida returns home to face Arkansas on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“They’re a very good team and have played well on the road this year,” Donovan said. “It’ll be a challenge for us. We’re going to need to try to get some (momentum).”
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