Gators Bitten by Spiders in South Florida

The Richmond Spiders put the upset bite on 13th-ranked Florida, 56-53, in the Orange Bowl Classic played at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise Saturday night.

The Gators (8-2), playing for the first time since falling from the unbeaten ranks in an 85-73 loss to No. 4 Syracuse Dec. 10, appeared to have things under control early when they broke from a tight 18-16 lead and raced to a 32-19 bulge with two minutes left in the opening half.

But UF allowed the Spiders (8-3) to score the last five points of the half, then simply played flat-footed on defense for the opening 11 minutes of the second half, getting outscored 22-7 as Richmond went 4-for-4 from the 3-point line and hit six of its first nine shots to take a 46-37 lead.

"I think it really started late in the first half when and we were up by 13 points," UF head coach Billy Donovan said in his postgame radio interview on WRUF radio. "We gave them a 5-0 run. We let them run some screens and we were late with some rotations, so they go in to the locker room with some momentum and cut the lead to eight. Then, to start the second half, it's a 22-7 run.

"I look at our guys and I don't know if it's 10 days off, flat, energy, I don't know. We just didn't have it emotionally or mentally and did not have the fire. It's confusing for me because you come off a loss to Syracuse where you feel like you did some good things against a very good team and you have a couple of good days of practice, so we're all going to be doing a little soul-searching and try to figure out how to get better."

To UF's credit, the Gators did battle back by scoring six straight points to cut the lead to 46-43 with 8:41 remaining. They would continue to inch closer, eventually tying it at 48-all in a foul-line jumper by senior Dan Werner with three minutes left. Junior center Vernon Macklin then came up big on the defensive end, blocking back-to-back shots, and Chandler Parsons was fouled going to the basket for the Gators. The junior converted one of two attempts for a 49-48 Gator lead, their first of the second half, with 2:33 remaining, but Richmond center Dan Geriot was fouled and sank one of two at the opposite end with 2:02 left, tying the game for the sixth – and final – time.

Richmond's David Gonzalez, a 6-5 senior who led all scorers with 16 points, drained an NBA-range 3-pointer over 5-8 Erving Walker to break the tie and give the Spiders a 52-49 lead, but Walker was fouled going to the hoop and hit one of two to make it 52-50 with 25 seconds left. Junior point guard Kevin Anderson, however, knocked down a pair of clutch free throws with 5.4 ticks remaining for a four-point Spider lead.

Walker, who was just 2-of-11 from the field in the contest, connected on a trey with 1.4 seconds left to cut the lead to one, but Anderson, who came into the game as the Spiders' leading scorer but was held scoreless in the first half, was fouled on the inbounds pass and converted two more free throws with just 0.9 left for the last of his 14 points to ice the victory.

Junior forward Alex Tyus was the lone Gator in double digits with 15 points, but a trio of players – Werner, Walker and Parsons – each had nine. Macklin had a game-high eight rebounds and three blocks to go with four points. Freshman Kenny Boynton, a native of Pompano Beach playing before a large contingent of family and friends, unfortunately struggled, scoring just six points and going 0-for-6 from 3-point range, including missing a potential game-tying shot from beyond the arc with a minute left after Gonzalez' bomb had given Richmond a 52-49 edge.

Florida will try and end its two-game losing streak when the Gators return to the friendly confines of the O'Connell Center to take on the Jaguars of South Alabama Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

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