Florida Comes up Short

TAMPA -- Florida had a chance to secure an NCAA Tournament berth Friday night. They were playing in front of a home state crowd against a team they'd beaten 10 times in a row. It still wasn't enough to get them the win they needed, as the Gators suffered another of the close late game losses that have made for frequent frustration this season.

Florida freshman guard Erving Walker's attempted three-point buzzer beater was blocked by Quantez Robertson, sealing a 61-58 Auburn win.

Despite having to play on back-to-back days, Florida came out and controlled the early action in the game. Auburn trailed throughout until a Tay Waller three-point shot gave them a 44-43 lead with 8:14 remaining in the game. Florida answered with a Walker three, but when Waller nailed another three for Auburn at the 7:50 mark the Gators were never able to catch up again.

"The difference in the game was we really struggled offensively," said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "Outside of Alex (Tyus) and Erving, we just could not find any scoring from anybody else."

Tyus led all scorers with 21, and Walker contributed 14 off the bench. No other Gator had more than eight, with Nick Calathes suffering through another rough night. The sophomore went 3-of-13 from the field and scored just seven points, although he did pull down eleven rebounds. Donovan acknowledged Calathes, who has played the second most minutes per game of any player in the conference, has faltered down the stretch.

"Nick puts so much pressure on himself to want to play well because he knows it's going to help our team....his initial reaction is what his reaction has been his whole life. 'I'm gonna fight, compete harder, play harder, go harder.' Sometimes that's not always a solution, and hopefully that's an area he can try to get better at."

While Walker had a better offensive night than Calathes, the freshman was visibly distraught about having had his attempt to tie the game blocked. He cried after the game, reminding some of Matt Walsh's frustration after a Florida second round NCAA tournament loss in 2005. Donovan understood where the tears came from.

"I think sometimes when guys cry, some people look at that as being a bad thing. I think a lot of times it's a sign of a guy that really cares. I know he cares, and he made some plays that kept us around in the game."

Senior Walter Hodge also tried to ease the freshman's mind.

"I told him that was not his fault, and he just has to keep his head up and that he played a great game."

Florida's lack of depth appeared to negatively impact their performance, as no bench player other than Walker scored. Starter Chandler Parsons was also no factor, producing just three rebounds and no points in 22 minutes of work.

The Gators end their regular season at 23-10. There's no question they'll be headed to postseason again, but whether it will be a return to the NCAAs or a second NIT trip in a row is very much undecided. The 65 NCAA teams will be unveiled on CBS Sunday at 6, with the NIT field at 9 on ESPNU.


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