Frazier buries free throws to seal win

Before the game, Dorian Finney-Smith saw some frustration from Michael Frazier. He wanted to encourage the junior guard and did so with a message.

Finney-Smith told Frazier he was going to win the game for Florida. Laughing and brushing him off, the Florida guard went back to shooting and never thought of the prediction again.

Until he stepped to the line with Florida trailing by one and 1.9 seconds left on the clock. He quickly smiled and went back to being locked in on the shot to come.

“I do it every day. It’s the same shot, same ball,” Michael Frazier said. “I practice it every day. I never think too much and was able to knock them down.”

Both shots fell, sending a sold-out O’Connell Center crowd into a frenzy. Kasey Hill stole the inbounds pass to seal the 57-56 win over Arkansas.

In the last two seasons, Frazier might not have been in that position. He was 2-9 from the field including 0-5 from behind the 3-point line. The numbers also making him 2-14 on field goals in the last two games and 0-9 from behind the 3-point line. After looking like he was slump-proof in his first two seasons at Florida, Frazier forgot what it felt like to hit from long range.

Whenever a quick slump happened in the last two seasons, it took Frazier totally out of the game. He would get beat on defense or turn the ball over because he was too consumed with the problems with his shot.

On Saturday, he dropped that mindset and attacked the glass when freshman Chris Chiozza attempted a game-winning layup. When it bounced out, Frazier was in perfect position to grab the offensive rebound and get fouled before the free throws. He stayed engaged in the game and put himself in position to secure the win.

“The thing I was most pleased about with Frazier is, when Michael Frazier has not made shots, he has allowed that to consume him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Earlier in the year, he never would’ve done that. This game, he’s struggling to shoot, bypassing shots. But he kept playing in the game. That has been this team’s struggle.”

There have been multiple occasions this year when Donovan yanked Frazier off the floor for being too passive. He has given up open 3-point attempts, even on Saturday, and playing too hesitant for Florida to trust him on the floor. Donovan did it in the first half and told Frazier that he didn’t look like he even wanted to play.

But he looked different in the second half. Frazier was engaged on defense and hit a jumper late in the game to extend Florida’s lead. When he stepped to the free throw line, there was full confidence on the bench that they would go in.

Finney-Smith was especially giddy, knowing his pre-game prediction would be right if both free throws fell.

“I knew it was going in,” Dorian Finney-Smith said with a grin. “I knew it. I see how much work he puts in. He had a tough night shooting, but I knew it was going in. I told him before the game.”

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