Guards flounder, Florida falls in Final Four
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Florida played its worst game of the season on college basketball’s biggest stage.
And the team’s backcourt had a lot to do with it.
Southeastern Conference player of the year Scottie Wilbekin and fellow guards Michael Frazier II and Kasey Hill struggled in a 63-53 loss to Connecticut in an NCAA semifinal Saturday night. It ended Florida’s season and school-record, 30-game winning streak.
Wilbekin finished with four points and just one assist for the Gators (36-3), whose last lost came at UConn on Dec. 2. Frazier hit a 3-pointer off the opening tip, but did little else the rest of the way. Hill scored seven points and was in foul trouble for much of the game.
On the defensive end, the three guards were no match for UConn’s Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. The Huskies duo combined for 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. UConn (31-8) advanced to play the Kentucky-Wisconsin winner in the title game Monday night.
The Huskies did everything right after a horrible start. Florida led 16-4 over the game’s first 10 minutes, but UConn got hot from 3-point range and started chipping into the lead.
By the time the first half ended, Florida was down three and out of sync.
It got no better after the break.
Wilbekin never found his rhythm and spent time on the bench seemingly dealing with cramps. Frazier, one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, couldn’t get any open looks from behind the arc. He finished 1-of-3 shooting and didn’t adjust to what the defense was giving him.
The Gators were 1-for-10 from 3-point range, the team’s fewest treys made this season. Wilbekin missed all three of his shots from 3-point range, including an air ball with about 6 minutes to play, and was 2-for-9 from the field. Hill was nearly as inept, finishing 2-for-6 from the floor.
With the guards off, the assists were down.
Florida finished with three assists, four fewer than their previous season low. Throw in 11 turnovers, including eight from the trio, and Florida may have been fortunate to even be in the game at all in the second half.
Coach Billy Donovan’s team did have a few positives.
Center Patric Young had 19 points, and slashing swingman Casey Prather added 15.
Prather scored Florida’s only three baskets in a 13-minute span stretching across halftime that helped turned the game.
The Gators missed eight of their final 10 baskets of the first half and were outplayed to open the second. Prather’s three-point play, which followed Young’s back-to-back hook shots, cut the lead to 41-38 and gave Florida some hope.
But Napier and Boatright took over, driving around Florida’s guards and creating easy baskets for DeAndre Daniels.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Florida’s four seniors huddled together for a few words and then trudged off the court. It wasn’t the way they expected to end the season, especially after sweeping the SEC and setting all school and conference records along the way.