This wasn’t good. At all. The 73-61 final score made Georgia’s win over Florida actually seem like a much closer game than it was. Dorian Finney Smith leading the scoring with 11 points is never a good sign, and just seeing that stat alone would make you think that it was really worse than the final twelve point deficit.
Most of the damage done to the Gators, however, was self inflicted. Neil pegged them right after the Auburn game: we just can’t trust this team.
The first, and probably the biggest, problem is that the Gators went in to Athens underestimating the Georgia Bulldogs, which was apparent by the 11-0 run in the first five minutes of the game. As the game neared halftime, the Gators seemed to be pulling back into the game, but couldn’t complete the comeback and their 24 game SEC win streak came to a disappointing end in Stegeman Coliseum.
I have to say, I haven’t been this disappointed in Florida basketball in a long while. I realize that the team isn’t as good as we had anticipated- it just isn’t our year, and I can accept that- but the performance in Athens today against the Georgia Bulldogs was actually painful to watch. For the most part, the Gators have stayed in every game they’ve played until the final minutes, but today the Bulldogs effectively shut down the Gators from tip-off to the final buzzer, and as much as I love Gator basketball, I hated every second of their performance today.
The initial five minutes of the game may have been the most frustrating segment of a game filled with them. The Bulldogs actually made Florida look like a high school team. I really don’t understand how the team couldn’t score a point in a whole five minutes of play. When you go down 11-0 in the first five minutes, you basically have to play error free ball if you even want a chance to come back into the game. And unfortunately, as we all know, pointless errors have been a big part of Florida basketball this year.
The biggest problem was that Florida would make a mistake, and then two or three possessions later, they’d turn around and make the same mistake all over again. With well over 12 minutes left in the game, the Gators were on pace to reach over 20 turnovers in the game. Regardless of how talented you are- and between Chiozza, Robinson, Hill and Frazier, I believe this team has plenty of talent- you just can’t win games when you turn the ball over that frequently. Some of the turnovers were really bad, too, like dribbling the ball out of bounds and throwing lazy passes- the avoidable giveaways that drives every coach nuts.
Yet the Gators had some life leading into halftime, where the deficit was cut to 36-31, and Devin Robinson opened the second half with a three to make it 36-34, but that was the end of the Gators’ fun. The rest of the game continued on as it began- sloppy play, defensive miscues and silly turnovers- until it wasn’t even surprising anymore. Every time Florida found itself in a position to pull back into the game, they either turned the ball over or missed a shot and couldn’t pull down the rebound. Neither of those results, of course, equals points, and this led to Florida staring at their third worst point total of the season (only the 59 points against UConn and the 56 against UAB in Paradise Island were lower) in what was… I’ll say it again… an embarrassing 73-61 loss.
If there was one moment that epitomized this game, it was Robinson’s embarrassing attempt at a dunk late in the second half. He very easily could have passed the ball out, drove towards the basket for a layup, or simply dribbled out, but he chose to try to go for the hero-esque dunk that ended up looking like he just throwing the ball at the backboard as hard as he could. Any player in this position should know that you can’t play for style-points when you’re losing by double digits, and this is precisely the kind of basketball that makes me lose my mind- when players don’t think.
The final game stats weren’t so bad, all things considered. Robinson was tied with Finney-Smith for a team high of 11 points scored, followed by Michael Frazier, who got minimal playing time in the first half, scoring 10. The rest of the team didn’t even break double digits, with most of them having just one basket. On the flip side, Georgia’s Marcus Thornton and Kenny Gaines each had 16, including a three ball from Gaines to put Georgia up 59-44- which was essentially the dagger.
I just don’t believe the Gators are simply not mentally ready to compete at the level they need to be to have a successful season. It’s obvious through all of the penalties, turnovers and missed free throws. It seems to be a mix of game time nerves and inexperience at the collegiate level, shown by the fact that I can’t even remember the last time (besides vs. Auburn), where the Gators played strong for the full 40 minutes. Something needs to change, and unfortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel for the Gators is the offseason, because there isn’t any digging out of this hole.