Once Again Great Effort Not Enough

The Gator basketball team could not have played harder than it did in the NCAA first round game against Brigham Young. The Gators left it all on the floor. However in a season where effort alone was often not enough that was again the case in Oklahoma City. Florida dropped a 99-92 decision to the BYU Cougars in double overtime, ending the Gators season.

This one will sting for a while since the Gators had their chances. Florida had the final possession in regulation and in the first overtime but failed to score the winning basket. Then, after Kenny Boynton fouled out, Billy Donovan's team faded in the closing minutes.

The shortcomings were not unfamiliar ones to Florida fans. The Gators turned it over 21 times with most of them coming with little if any defensive pressure. Vernon Macklin picked up two early fouls, leaving him fewer opportunities to exploit a BYU front line that frankly had no chance to stop him. Florida's center ended up with 16 points and made 7-of-9 shots from the field, but this was a game he could have dominated.

Alex Tyus appeared to be playing with mittens on as he fumbled one opportunity after another. He ended up with just 3-for-11 from the field and scored six points in 29 minutes on the floor. How he ended up with zero turnovers is something only the visually impaired stats crew in Oklahoma City could possibly explain.

Erving Walker had another tough day at the office, managing to make just 4-of-16 shots form the field while turning it over a season-high seven times.

Much To Build On

We'll do a detailed and of the season review and look ahead in the days and weeks to come, but Gator Nation can certainly be proud of this team. The Gators won 21 games against the toughest schedule of the last three years. They again managed a winning record in the SEC and ended a two-year run of NIT appearances.

This team displayed a level of heart, character and determination that the last two Gator teams never showed. They were undermanned in the backcourt and too inconsistent in the frontcourt and yet they earned the school a return to the NCAA Tournament.

The Gators only played eight guys in games that mattered and more often than not it was pretty much a six man team in the second half of any competitive game. Even with the game against BYU going double overtime, Ray Shipman and Erik Murphy played just eleven minutes each.

This wasn't a great season by any means, but it was a step in the right direction. For the third year in a row the Gators had a nice year, but for the first time in those years there is reason to feel much better about the future. Florida Basketball returns to the Big Dance in 2010, but there's a real chance the Gators will return to the "Big Time" in the years ahead.

They just need more players.

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