Gators Fall in NYC

A season filled with ups and downs ends on a down note after the Florida Gators were defeated in the semifinals of the National Invitational Tournament on Tuesday night by the UMass Minutemen. Like most of their losses throughout the season, the Gators just couldn't get a shot to drop in the second half.

Florida had their chances, especially from the charity stripe. Down the stretch, the Gators missed 7-of-10 free throws. Meanwhile, the Minutemen made 10-of-12 to clinch a 78-66 win over the Gators.

But it wasn't just the free throw line that gave Florida trouble. The Gators made just 8-of-21 from the line, but they also made just 2-of-12 shots from behind the arc and shot just 40 percent for the game from the floor.

Marreese Speights finished the season on a high note, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career high 17 rebounds. The Gators outrebounded UMass 46-35 and held the Minutemen to 41 percent shooting, but some timely shots and their ability to capitalize on Florida's mistakes helped UMass finish off the Gators.

Florida started strong, and after the two teams exchanged baskets for the first ten minutes, the Gators began to build a first half lead. With 8:48 left, Dan Werner knocked down a 3-pointer to give Florida a five-point edge, 24-19. Two inside buckets by Speights and a 3-pointer from Adam Allen stretched Florida's lead to its biggest of the night, 35-25, with 1:20 left in the first half. The Gators carried a nine-point lead, 36-27, into the break.

Florida maintained its lead in the opening minutes of the second half behind Speights' inside play. But midway through the second half, Florida's shooting woes began. With 14:10 left, Walter Hodge scored to give Florida a 47-41 advantage, but the Gators would only score two field goals over the next seven minutes allowing UMass to take control. The Minutemen went on an 18-4 run to take a 59-51 lead with 7:31 left.

Nick Calathes converted a 3-point play to pull Florida to within five points, but that would be the closest they would get. UMass guard Gary Forbes knocked down two 3-point shots with four minutes to play to extend Florida's deficit to 10-points. And down the stretch, the Minutemen made their free throws, while the Gators missed theirs.

This was the third trip to the NIT Final Four for the Gators and they've lost in the semifinals in all three trips.

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

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