Florida comes up short in Final Four rematch with Connecticut
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Different venue. Different players. Same result.
Ryan Boatright scored 14 points, Rodney Purvis hit three 3-pointers in the second half and defending national champion Connecticut rallied to beat Florida 63-59 on Saturday for the third time in the last 13 months.
The Huskies (7-5) overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Gators (7-6) in a game billed as a Final Four rematch.
Both teams limped into this one — literally for Boatright, who played 39 minutes despite a deep left thigh bruise sustained in a loss to Temple on Wednesday. UConn coach Kevin Ollie didn’t know Boatright would play until just before tip-off. The senior was scoreless for the first 14 minutes, but then got things started for the Huskies.
He finished with 2-of-11 shooting — both shots were 3s — and was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
"I just couldn’t get any lift," Boatright said. "I was a step slower on a lot of my moves and couldn’t get off the ground like I wanted to. That’s why I missed a lot of runners, layups and floaters that are normally cash money. But I tried to contribute in other ways."
And he did, adding six rebounds, six assists and a steal.
"I’m going to go out with my leaders, from Shabazz (Napier) to Kemba (Walker) to Ryan," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "I just have so much trust in those guys `cause we’ve been through so much together, all the ups and downs. I’m going to go with my guns, and he’s the biggest gun in my holster."
UConn had lost five of its previous eight games, so this was a much-needed win for a team trying to avoid missing the NCAA tournament. Florida had dropped every significant game on its non-conference schedule.
Neither team played much better Saturday. But Boatright and Purvis came up big in crunch time.
"This was definitely a great win for us," Purvis said. "We’ve been up and down, but hopefully we’ll be able to build off this. It was a great stepping stone."
Boatright made all four of his free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Purvis, who scored two points in the first half, drained three treys in the final eight minutes. He finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Omar Calhoun added 12, and Terrence Samuel chipped in 10.
Florida’s biggest issue was at the free-throw line.
The Gators missed 12 of 20 from the stripe. They missed early and really missed late, including all four in the final 40 seconds.
"No excuses. They were the better team," said Dorian Finney-Smith, who led Florida with 19 points. "They made more winning plays than we did."
UConn did the same in a national semifinal last April in north Texas and at home in December 2013.
"Very frustrating," Finney-Smith said. "Last year is over with, but just to think about it, I can’t get a win on these guys."
Florida also went more than eight minutes without a field goal in the second half — coinciding with UConn’s 10-0 run that closed the gap.
The Gators led for the majority of the game and were up 44-31 early in the second half. But UConn clamped down defensively and started making shots.
Purvis delivered the key ones. His first 3-pointer made it a four-point game. His second gave the Huskies their first lead of the game. His third put UConn ahead for good.
For Florida, it was another second-half collapse. The Gators have blown double-digit leads in the second half to Miami, Kansas and UConn.
"If you asked our team what’s the goal today, it’s, `I hope I play well and I hope we win,’" Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "That’s about as shallow as it comes. There’s no substance behind that. We’ve got to become and we’ve got to develop more competitive substance inside of it. We’ve got to try to get that."
UConn: This was the Huskies’ first true road game of the season. … UConn improved to 25-8 against Southeastern Conference teams. … UConn improved to 42-17 against teams from the Sunshine State.
Florida: Donovan used his ninth starting lineup in 13 games, trying to find one that works. … Guard Eli Carter, returning from a sprained left foot, went 0 for 5 from the field. … Florida had 15 assists, nine turnovers and seven steals.
UConn plays at South Florida on Tuesday.
Florida plays at South Carolina on Wednesday.
Florida’s leading scorer, guard Michael Frazier II, was quiet again against the Huskies. Frazier scored eight points on 3-for-10 shooting. He now has 18 points in the three games against Connecticut.