#15 Florida visited #12 UConn last night in what felt like “March Madness” in early December and lost 65-64 on a last second “buzzer beater” by star UConn guard Shabazz Napier.
Florida did enough to deserve a win, by winning on the boards (11 offensive rebounds, 34 total rebounds) and getting to the line (17 free throws) and getting eight steals, and it did enough to deserve a loss, allowing 11 threes and making just 11 of those 17 free throws and committing 16 turnovers and sinking just three triples of its own. After back and forth play all night and after Florida surrendering an 8 point lead, Florida senior PG Scottie Wilbekin left the game late in the second half after landing awkwardly on his ankle. All momentum seemed to be on the Huskies side at that point. But senior Patric Young had other plans and took over with Florida’s primary ball-handler off the court. The senior center delivered three big baskets down the stretch, drawing a foul on the last and hitting the bonus attempt for a 62-59 Florida lead with 1:18 to go. “I give our guys a lot of credit. We battled and fought,” said Gators head coach Billy Donovan. “We took a lead, their kids really battled back and took the lead. And then we got down. We got up there in the second half, they came back and took the lead. We battled back and took the lead.”
After Michael Frazier put the Gators up by one with a layup with 18 seconds left, the Huskies set up for the final shot following a Florida timeout. UConn guard Shabazz Napier threw up an off-balance shot from near the foul line that badly missed its mark, but UConn’s DeAndre Daniels tipped the ball back to Napier and his second attempt was right on target as time expired. Despite the result, Billy Donovan was happy with how his team defended the last possession. ”We made the decision we would trap him and we got him to take a very difficult off-balance shot,” Donavan said. ”The guy who won the game for them was DeAndre Daniels, who made an unbelievable tip out when he was off balance which kept the ball alive. We had guys on Napier who ran to the rim to defensive rebound which left a space for Napier. I have a lot of respect for Napier at the end of games. I think he’s a big shot-making guy. His shot was luck because it was tipped to him.”
Senior guard Scottie Wilbekin finished with 15 points for the Gators before his exit, and Casey Prather had 19 points to lead the Gators, all accumulated by the 12:49 mark of the second half. Senior center Pat Young led the Gators late, scoring seven of his 17 points in the final three minutes, and Michael Frazier had seven points and five rebounds, and played 39 minutes.
Gator Nation has had their heart crushed once again with late game heroics by an opponent. One positive to take away from this game for Florida fans: the Gators, relatively early in the season went into a hostile environment against an undefeated UConn team that seems to be poised to make a strong tournament run and dominated them for most of the night. The major question going forward is how long PG Scottie Wilbekin will be sidelined. Florida hosts #6 Kansas at the Stephen C. O’ Connell Center next Tuesday night.