I’m not going to sugar coat this. Florida looked like a high school basketball team on Thursday night. Fortunately for them, they were playing against Auburn, who looked like a rec league team. The combination of the two made for one of the sloppiest and most boring basketball games I can remember seeing.
Auburn wasn’t supposed to win a game in the SEC this year, but they almost got one last night thanks to some absolutely putrid play by the Gators. In the end, the Gators somehow found a way to score more than three points in the last four minutes (don’t laugh…in this game, that was a feat) and pull out a 45-40 victory.
Yes, you read that right. 45-40. It was the lowest scoring game Florida has had since Billy Donovan took over coaching here. With about four minutes to go, Auburn capped off a fast break with a dunk to take a commanding 40-37 lead. With the way Florida was playing, a three point deficit seemed almost impossible to overcome.
So what dug Florida into that hole? The simple answer is that Florida had a bad shooting night. We know how the Gators rely on the 3-pointer and even though the shots weren’t falling, the Gators kept shooting them. At that point in the game, Florida had made 3 of 24 three point attempts.
But it wasn’t just bad shooting, and there was a reason those numbers were so low. When Auburn switched to a zone, Florida had no answer. It wasn’t just that they had no answer, it was as if they weren’t even looking for one. After a few interior passes got picked off, Florida pretty much gave up on getting the ball inside entirely. About 90% of our second half possessions boiled down to walking the ball down the court while the three perimeter players make slow, boring passes back and forth to each other until one of them eventually launched a hail marry 3-pointer from three feet outside the three point line. They were long shots, they were contested shots, and they were really, really bad shots. Our offense was so timid that Auburn’s defense had actually extended itself well out beyond the 3 point line. Their zone was set up that far out. The Gators desperately need someone to step up in these situations and create some penetration to the basket to free some guys up on the inside.
Simply put, this was the worst basketball game I’ve ever watched. The teams consistently pulled up from fast break opportunities to set up their horrible half court offenses that weren’t working. Auburn’s free throw shooting was so bad (1 for 8) that it actually made Florida’s look good. Florida shot 28% from the field and won.
The really difficult thing to watch was to see Florida literally score only 14 points in the first 16 minutes of the second half (to the point where Florida trailed 40-37), and then to watch the Wisconsin/Indiana game that came on ESPN right after, where Indiana bested that number within the first four minutes of the game.
In the end, it all worked out. Not through some miraculous change in the offense or anything, but basically in luck as two of our hail marry three points eventually found their way into the basket. First it was Kenny Boynton with a long range 3-pointer and a hand in his face to tie the game at 40-40. Then on the next possession Erving Walker drilled another one to give the Gators a 43-40 lead which, in this game, was plenty.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, though it does show some resilience to win a conference road game when things aren’t going well. What this game really showed us though is just how bad a night this team can have when the shots aren’t falling, and that doesn’t bode well for tournament play in March as those types of games inevitably pop up and you must rely on inside play to get you through to the next game. This team can beat anyone in the nation, but they’re far too inconsistent to win with the regularity that will be required to make a big run in March.