Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators lose lead late to Oral Roberts as season ends with whimper

By Adam Silverstein
March 21, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators lose lead late to Oral Roberts as season ends with whimper
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

The rollercoaster nature of the Florida Gators’ 2020-21 season completed just as most amusement park rides do — on a downward slope. In this case, there was nothing amusing about No. 7 seed Florida’s 81-78 loss to the No. 15 seed Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.

The Gators, which led by as many as 11 points in the second half, were unable to score down the stretch while committing a season-high 20 turnovers in the game, giving the Golden Eagles endless opportunities to score from the field and at the free throw line. This despite Florida dominating the paint on both ends of the court.

The loss was not unexpected for a Gators team that has anything but consistent this season, though it surely hurts fans just the same. Let’s take a look at what went down in Florida’s final game of the season and what it means for the program going forward in our Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … sophomore point guard Tre Mann missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining. The Gators missed their last four shots and did not hit a field goal for 2:29 down the stretch as the Golden Eagles outscored them 13-4 over the final 4:34 of the game. Florida led by as many as 11 points with 9:48 remaining, but Oral Roberts scored six straight points to cut into its deficit. ORU took its first lead of the second half with 2:56 left and immediately retook the lead with a three-pointer after UF had regained it on its last basket, a jumper by junior guard Noah Locke. Florida also had a separate streak of 5:04 without a field goal in the second half.

ORU scored 23 points off 20 UF turnovers, 10 of which were committed in each half. This despite the Gators dominating on the boards, 37-24, and doing great work in the paint outscoring their opponents 42-28 down low. Between turnovers and fouls, Florida gave Old Dominion endless additional opportunities to put points on the board, and it cost the Gators dearly.

First half focus: The lead exchanged hands frequently in the first 20 minutes, though Florida was largely in control. The Gators used an 8-2 run to end the half with a five-point lead despite committing 10 turnovers to just five from the Golden Eagles. They dominated inside with a 22-12 scoring edge and 23-10 advantage on the boards with Mann, Locke and junior forward Anthony Duruji all shooting and rebounding efficiently.

Exceptional efforts: Mann finished with a team-high 16 points and seven boards, but he committed four turnovers along with his four assists. Locke was exceptionally efficient with 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting (3 of 7 from three). However, both played far better in the first half than the second. Junior F Colin Castleton posted another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but he had five turnovers, frequently losing the ball in the paint.

Odds and ends: Florida matched a season-high with 20 turnovers, five more than its final average of 15 per game … there was an 18-3 foul disparity benefitting Oral Roberts through the first 32 minutes; it ended 23-9 and made 82.6% of those opportunities — one of the main differences in the game … UF is now 45-19 all-time in the NCAA Tournament … Florida had won 15 straight games against double-digit seeds in the event since 2004 before this defeat … the Gators made their eighth straight appearance in the second round but fell to 10-6 all-time in the round … Florida is 6-4 in the event under head coach Mike White and has not advanced past the second round since 2017 … this was UF’s first loss ever to a Summit League team … the Gators have faced three of the nine No. 15 seeds to upset No. 2 seeds in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (2-1) … Florida lost just its fourth game this season scoring 70+ points (11-4) and second when shooting 44% or better from the field (15-2)

What it means / what’s next? Simply put, it was a disappointing finish to a disappointing season for the Gators. There’s no question that Florida dealt with plenty of adversity since the summer, including the loss of its star player in horrific fashion and one of the most inconsistent playing schedules in the country due to his absence and COVID-19 protocols. That does not excuse the Gators’ level of play, lack of care for the ball and inconsistency on both ends of the court.

White’s tenure at Florida is certainly up in the air after a season of up and down performances. It seemed that the Gators were going to rally after losing star junior forward Keyontae Johnson, and White certainly deserves a bit of a break for being without his star player, but after the team played exceedingly well for a number of weeks, it completely fell off and then stumbled down the stretch of the season. Mann is likely headed to the NBA Draft, while everyone else will likely stay barring potential transfers.

At the end of the day, Florida has not won more than a single NCAA Tournament game since White’s second season in 2017. For a program that has not only won multiple national championships but proven that it can at least be a frequent Elite Eight and occasional Final Four team, that is simply not good enough. Athletic director Scott Stricklin will have a difficult decision to make in the offseason, but it has come to a point where it’s obvious the Gators can do better.

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