Florida forward Devin Robinson puts up a shot against South Carolina guard Justin McKie during the second half Sunday at the NCAA Tournament in New York. [Frank Franklin II/Associated Press]
0-for-second half on 3-pointers part of downfall
NEW YORK —Justin Leon’s shot rose in the air, drifting softly toward the basket and then clanged off the rim. It was the last shot of Florida’s 2016-17 basketball season.
And it completed a déjà vu feeling for the Gators.
Earlier this year, Florida went 0-for-17 in a game against South Carolina. On Sunday in Madison Square Garden, with a trip to the Final Four on the line, the Gators were 0-for-14 in the second half.
“It’s funny, until you said 0-or-14, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know we were 0-for-14,” said Florida coach Mike White. “I know we were really struggling to make a shot. I didn’t know how bad it was.”
It was pretty bad, especially for a team that had made 7-of-12 3s in the first half as it raced to a seven-point lead.
Perhaps the Gators settled for too many, but the Gators are a 3-point shooting team. In fact, after the game White said there wasn’t a 3 that shouldn’t have been taken and one that Leon passed up that he should have taken.
Maybe their tired legs were a factor as the game more on.
“Nah, I don't think so because we gave ourselves plenty of time to prepare for the game,” said Leon, who was 3-for-9 from 3. “It just wasn’t our night to win I guess.”
On the same end of the court when Chris Chiozza made the dramatic floating 3-point shot to put Florida into the East final, Florida couldn’t buy a shot from outside the arc.
“No, not necessarily that I know of,” Leon said.”I think just, I don't know maybe they just weren’t going in because we still got the same looks that we got in the first half.”
Still, Florida was in a tie game with 3 minutes to play. From that point on, the Gators only took two 3-point shots, both misses at the end of the game.
“I thought they missed some open looks,” said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. “Did they maybe run out of juice? You’d have to ask Mike.
“They missed some shots. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometime it doesn’t.”
It didn’t on this day and Florida was buried under an avalanche of free throws for the 77-70 final score.
White, however, didn’t think all of the missed 3s were the only culprits Sunday.
“You try to control what you can control,” he said. “We could have controlled the offensive rebounds more so than making an open shot. Couple of ill-advised passes. … The times we had opportunities to wall up in the paint and not jump and be sound.
“I wish we could have had those back. And we could have gone 0-for-14 and still won the game. Obviously you want to make shots. It’s a big part of basketball. I don’t know why. We took some contested ones. We had a few open ones. Just didn’t fall for us.”
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