Despite a career high 32 points from freshman KeVaughn Allen, Florida was defeated by FSU in the O’Dome last night, 73-71.
FSU ended the first half on a 10-0 run to emphatically break a 31-31 deadlock, and widened their lead as the second half progressed. It ballooned to as much as 13 before the Gators staged a late rally, eventually tying the game at 71 on a layup by Dorian Finney-Smith with 25 seconds to go. Florida actually had a chance to go up before that layup, but Allen missed an open three- one of his few misses on the night. FSU freshman Dwayne Bacon then made the Gators pay by hitting the game winning jumper with five seconds to go, giving the Noles a two game winning streak in the rivalry.
The big picture is a sobering one. Florida has ten times the basketball program FSU could ever dream to have; the Gators lead the all time series 43-24 and have two national championships to FSU’s none. So I’m not even that annoyed that Florida lost to FSU. Really, I’m not. I’m annoyed that Florida lost a game it should have won, and would have with even the slightest semblance of a functioning offense throughout the game. You know, again.
Once again, offensive ineptitude plagued this team, this time in a rivalry game. It’s a good thing Allen had his best night as a Gator, or Florida would have been blown out. The Gators started the game 9-16 from the free throw line and 10-26 shooting from the field before finding their stroke late. But by then, they’d already dug themselves an insurmountable hole, or grave. Kasey Hill, save for two driving layups in the second half, was horrible, turning it over five times, including one particularly blunderful pass to nobody that almost nailed an FSU cheerleader right in the baby zone. John Egbunu didn’t have his best game, either, finishing with four points before fouling out, and the lack of an inside presence while being forced to come back from 13 down doomed the Gators down the stretch.
With nobody to go to inside down 70-69 with under a minute to go, Florida gave Allen a chance to cap his night in grand style and be a hero, but Allen missed the three. There really didn’t appear to be any secret regarding who would get the shot, or even what kind of shot it would be. Which was fine, in a vacuum, as Allen hit three of Florida’s four three pointers on the night, but it left Florida in the unenviable position of “Allen better make this three or we’re screwed” because the Gators had nobody big to potentially grab the rebound. And sure enough, when he missed, FSU’s Xavier Henry grabbed the rebound, made one of two free throws, Doe-Doe then tied it with the layup, and, well, you know how it ended.
Play time is over for the Gators, though. Nobody is content any longer by tales of coming oh-so-close in big games. I’ll never call for a coach’s head in his first year regardless, and to insinuate that Mike White is somehow on the hot seat for an 8-4 start is ridiculous, but this is the type of game his teams will have to win in the future if he wants to have a future in Gainesville. There’s promise here on this team, but at some point, it’s got to translate into numbers, meaning points and wins.
I’m happy that Florida came back from 13 down. It shows resolve. I get that. But the fact that Florida was down 13 to begin with to an FSU team that’s certainly decent but by no means great on its home floor is troublesome in its own way. It’s a reflection of the Gators’ struggles offensively for a large portion of the game, and if this team wants to improve and accomplish any of the goals it set for itself… (voice trails off.)