Gators Give Away Chance at Win

Nobody likes to lose and no one in the sports business will ever speak positively about "moral victories". But at least you can accept losing on "merit". When you lose on merit, the other guy was just better.

They made the plays and you didn't. They made the clutch shot, they avoided the crucial turnover, and they were better, fine. Lick your wounds, regroup and try to improve. But Saturday in Nashville the Gators didn't lose on merit. A great effort built around a superb game plan was ruined by two brain-dead moments in the final two minutes.

The first mental collapse came right at the 2:00 mark. Dan Werner's steal and pass to Nick Calathes had led to a basket and a foul. Florida was tied at 53 with a free throw coming. But instead of building momentum, the emotions changed instantly when Walter Hodge was called for a technical foul for bumping into Vandy's A.J. Ogilvy. Now if Hodge didn't say something volatile, the technical was a gross exaggeration. But no matter how you feel about it, Hodge didn't need to create a confrontation there. As the veteran Gator he has to know better and make smarter decisions. He handed Vandy two points, points that seemed awfully important in the closing seconds.

Florida's second huge breakdown came when the Gators committed a needless backcourt violation with just 19 seconds to play. Calathes took a pass from Jai Lucas and crossed the mid-court line, but the blame for this one rests entirely on Lucas. The freshman guard simply must know where the line is and cannot pass the ball to a teammate that close to it. The Gators were down one at the time and had the chance to hold for one shot, winner take all. Instead they fouled, Vandy made both and the Gators missed three long range shots in the closing seconds.

It was a hard way to lose a game most thought the Gators would lose anyway. But they didn't lose it on merit, they lost it on stupidity. They need to get smarter in a hurry, because anything less than a strong finish will land the Gators in the NIT.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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