Well, we can't win 'em all on last second shots, even though I thought we just might for a moment. The Gators survived a late barrage of Devan Downey threes to beat us 97-93 in Gainesville. Hats off to the Gators for gutting out the win; Gators fans should thank their lucky stars that Walter Hodge managed to hit his FTs down the stretch. Downey ended with 33, tying his season high against Clemson. Nick Calathes led the Gators with 22; all Gators starters ended in double digits.
So, how did we lose this game, despite the fact that we played a pretty solid offensive game tonight, shooting for a high percentage and getting a lot of offensive boards? First of all, our turnover margin was pretty bad. We gave up 17 and took away 10, a far cry from the kind of margin we've gotten in the past few games. Many of these led to easy Gators baskets. The Gators get credit for forcing a few of them, but at times we played sloppily as we moved the ball up court against the Gators press. I'm sure Coach Horn will work with the team on this.
Second of all, we finally did what we all knew we would do eventually: we lost a game due to horrendous free throw shooting. We've gotten away with our poor percentages a few times this year, but you had to know it would come back to bite us eventually. We were 10-22 tonight, with many losses coming on 1-1s down the stretch. We knew coming into this season that players like Mike Holmes and Dominique Archie would be liabilities at the line, but things have gotten even worse than anyone could have possibly expected. Even players like Devan and Zam Fredrick are now missing lots of their shots at the stripe. You have to think it's in the team's head at this point.
Some people have criticized Coach Horn for not focusing enough on FTs. While I agree that it's more of an issue than Coach is letting on, we have to keep in mind that there's not a whole lot he can do to change things. Practicing free throws essentially involves just taking some time each day and shooting a bunch of them, and I gaurantee you that we're doing that. There's not much else we can do because most of our practice time has to be spent prepping for our next opponent. Players can work on their FTs during the offseason, and I hope our returning players do just that. It won't help us now, though. Let's just hope that we get over whatever is messing with our heads and go from being one of the worst FT shooting teams in the country back to being only a mediocre shooting team. If we don't, expect a few more losses like this down the stretch.
On a last note, while I would've loved to win this game, if won't kill us to have lost it. It's tough to beat the Gators in their house, and we've got many more winnable games to play down the stretch. Hopefully this loss will keep this team motivated and they'll start another winning streak this weekend against the Dawgs.