Instant Analysis: Florida squanders double-digit lead, lose SEC opener

Jan 6, 2019 | 0 comments

The Florida Gators (8-5, 0-1) hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-7, 1-0) in the SEC opener at home. Looking to begin conference play on the right note, the Gators struggled mightily down the stretch and blew a 14-point lead with just over 10-minutes remaining. This loss is going to look bad on their resume come March. 

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Florida lead by double-digits multiple times throughout this game, but it wasn’t over until Chris Silva flushed home an easy dunk with 2.5 seconds remaining. Back-and-forth these two teams went down the stretch, but a full court pass and dunk was the knockout blow.  

HE STOLE THE SHOW: In a hard-fought game, it was two guards that outshined the others on the floor tonight. South Carolina guard Hassani Gravett was the sole reason the Gamecocks sustained a chance in this contest. The senior entered this game averaging just 9.9 points per game, but against a pesky Gators’ defense, Gravett found his rhythm. With the student section in his ear all night, Gravett was able to knock down big shot after big shot. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound guard finished his night with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting.  

No one really stood out for the Gators, as it was a collective effort from the guards to help Florida in their SEC opener. Noah Locke was the only bright spot for the Gators on the perimeter, connecting on 5-15 three’s and closing his night with 17 points. The freshman has a beautiful stroke, but wasn’t able to find his stroke in the second half. Locke seems to be the only real bright spot for the Gators shooting the ball and they’ll need him to be more consistent in conference play.  

THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE: Florida lives and dies by the three ball and the numbers don’t lie. Without an interior presence on the floor, Florida’s guards rarely seek the middle of the lane and instead often settle for the long ball. Tonight, was no different. In the first half, 56-percent (19-of-34) of the Gators’ shots were beyond the arc. However, only six of the attempts dropped. These missed opportunities came to bite the Gators as they went through several scoring droughts. On the night, 31 of Florida’s 61 shots came from deep. The inability to establish anything inside will continue to hurt the Gators until this matter is addressed.  

BOTTOM LINE: The Gators are going to have to get to the free throw line more and learn how to sustain leads. South Carolina was able to remain in the ball game in the first half due to the amount of free-throw attempts they had (12). The 12 attempts from Carolina were 10 more than the Gators, who didn’t attempt and make their first free throw until 19 minutes into the game. Florida will also have to find the ability to play for a full 40-minutes. This team lead by double digits multiple times throughout the night but squandered the lead each time. Florida’s scoring droughts ultimately hurt this team and it’s not the first scenario this has happened in either. This has been the Achilles heel for this team in previous seasons. Bottom line is this loss may factor whether Florida gets into the NCAA Tournament in March. 

UP NEXT: The Florida Gators (8-5, 0-1) will take their first conference road trip of the season as they head to Fayetteville (Ark.) and take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 1-0). The Gators must regroup and battle later this week and avoid an 0-2 start in conference play.

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