I know that everyone is pretty focused on the Gators finishing up their recruiting class right now, but there will be plenty of time to talk about that and I want to make sure we don’t forget about the Gator basketball in the meantime. Besides, Neil’s got you covered on that front, and there’s a pretty good forum discussion going on about it as well.
The Gator basketball team pulled out another nailbiter on Tuesday night, and many will see it as an example of perserverance in a close game. While that much is true, another disturbing trend was on display: the Gators’ inability to close out games.
For the third time in just over a week, the Gators went dead cold in the last three minutes of regulation. Even worse is that in two of those games the Gators had 8-point leads with around four minutes to play, and in both cases could not close the game out in regulation. So what is going wrong at the end of these games?
The obvious answer is free throw shooting. In both games, the Gators had a chance to ice it with a few free throws, but could not. But the effects of poor free throw shooting don’t end there. Even when they’re not at the stripe the Gators are struggling to score, and a big part of that is that Donovan has no choice but to take Vernon Macklin out of the game down the stretch due to his poor numbers from the stripe. Without Macklin in, the Gators offense often devolves into Walker and Boynton pulling up for long, contested three pointers.
Bad free throw shooting I can live with. Usually, when a guy who’s 18+ years old is a bad free throw shooter, he’s going to be a bad free throw shooter for life. There’s often nothing that can be done about it, no matter how much work is put into it. But the other half of the Gators’ late game failures is fixable, and that fix is to stop playing prevent offense late in the game.
At the end of regulation in the Vanderbilt game I had to look over at the Gators’ bench and make sure that Steve Addazio wasn’t calling in the plays. Wait, did I say plays? Sorry, I meant play…singular. You know the one. Take the ball up court, stand around up top until the shot click hits four, and then throw up a hail marry three pointer just to pretend like we’re trying to score.
In the Vanderbilt game Florida had the ball with a 2-point lead and around 50 seconds to play. In the Georgia game, it was a multi-score lead with around 2 minutes to go. In either case, a basket is just about a dagger in the victory, but in both cases we instead elected to just run off 35 seconds and give the ball back freely.
Florida pulled out the win in both games, so their late collapses haven’t gotten much attention yet. But if we’re going to be stuck relying on a miracle three-pointer by Erving Walker like we had against Georgia, or a blown no-call that went in our favor like we had against Vandy, then that luck is going to run out fast.
The bright side of all this is that those late regulation collapses allowed us to see some really good things in the overtimes of those games. In both cases, Chandler Parsons ultimately came up big at the end. Maybe we should give him a shot down the stretch in regulation. One thing is for certain, they need to get those late game collapses under control. If they can figure it out, we’ve got a pretty good squad this year.