Yet another Florida basketball game ends up in disappointment for the Gator faithful. Sigh. Roll of the eyes. Shake of the head. Shrug. Nothing new.
Jarell Martin scored 22 points for LSU and the Bayou Bengals shot a blazing 8-13 from three point land in what turned out to be a 79-61 loss for Florida, which easily qualified as the most lopsided defeat the Gators have suffered all year. Short of the miracles of Florida winning the SEC Tournament or beating Kentucky, this loss elicited the feeling that whatever other chance the Gators previously had of reaching the NCAA Tournament is now gone. Realistically speaking, the Gators had to go 15-3 in the SEC to be 100% safe for the Big Dance after the paltry showing in the non conference slate, and with two dates against Kentucky still left on the schedule, the chances of that happening are very slim. By all accounts, this felt like the dagger to Florida’s hopes of going dancing, and I’m not the only one who felt this way:
Unless Florida either beats Kentucky or wins the SEC Tournament, LSU just dropped the guillotine on the #Gators NCAA Tournament hopes.
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) January 21, 2015
The game was actually quite interesting for awhile, as the teams went back and forth between a tie game and a small deficit for the Gators. Eventually the Tigers began to pull away, earning a 23-16 lead with 9 minutes remaining in the first that was cut down to a 37-32 lead at the half. But things went downhill immediately after the second half began, as the Tigers gradually built their lead up to 55-47, and then Jalyn Patterson landed the dagger, a three pointer that increased the lead to 58-47 with 11 minutes to go. The Gators never got back within single digits again, and now the team that was ranked #7 in the country to start the season is staring at being a #7 in the NIT. Oh, how the mighty fall.
To preface this statement, I HATE saying this, mainly because I feel as if I am a stereotypical annoying fan, but the refs made some absolutely horrendous calls this game. Some of the calls that the refs made caused the O’Dome to collectively lose their minds. On multiple occasions, the refs called some ridiculous charging calls that made me feel like I was watching a YMCA league game. It seemed as if every call was in favor of the Tigers, and it all came to a climax when Chiozza stole the ball halfway through the second half and went in for the slam, only for the refs to call it back as a jump ball. I can promise you, I absolutely lost my mind along with the rest of the arena. I really thought the O’Connell Center was about to explode. Though I’m not sure it would have made that big of a difference in the long run, the refs certainly didn’t help matters.
On a more positive note, though, the press worked fairly well during the first half, as the Gators stole multiple balls in transition and made some great plays. Late in the first half, Casey Hill made an incredible steal that ended up in a nasty alley-oop to Robinson that made me lose my mind. For a moment, it actually made me forget about the deficit.
Another bright spot was Alex Murphy. He had a great game despite being used sparingly. In the 12 minutes he played, he actually scored a team-high ten points, tied with Dorian Finney-Smith.
But bright spots aren’t going to get this team to the NCAA Tournament, and looking at the big picture, this looked like a fatal blow. For the longest time, I felt as if the Gators were still in the game, but the Tigers eventually stomped out any hope we had to win the game, and probably any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament, too. That’s frustrating. That’s 2014-15 Gator basketball