Tuesday, November 18, 2014

UF Basketball: Miami Upsets #7 Florida in the O-Dome

As the last shot bounced off the rim, I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. After 33 straight games, the Florida Gators' home winning streak in the O-Dome has come to an end. It is almost fitting that the rival Miami Hurricanes, my former favorite team, was the team to do it.

The Gators were ranked 8th in the polls coming into this matchup and led all way up until 3:48 left in the game. From there, it was a back and forth affair that saw Miami's Angel Rodriguez seal the deal with a nasty fadeaway three-pointer over Kasey Hill with 16 seconds left in the game. Rodriguez would again seal UF's fate when he drew a charge on Eli Carter with two seconds left in the game.

After UF fouled Rodriguez, he proceeded to nail one of his two foul shots. Down two, the Gators still had life. Jacob Kurtz threw a prayer across the court that was deflected and picked up by junior Michael Frazier II. Frazier II threw up a prayer before the buzzer sounded, but could not convert. Miami had completed an upset that not a lot of people saw coming.

This was by far one of the best Gator basketball games I have ever attended! There is nothing better than a game that comes down to the last shot. It stinks when your team does not come out on top but that is just the nature of sports. Florida's narrow defeat does not take away from the fact that this was an instant classic in the Florida-Miami basketball rivalry.

It is very uncharacteristic of me to highlight opposing players, but I give a ton of credit to Miami's redshirt junior guard Angel Rodriguez. He rose to the occasion and made the big shots when the pressure was on. He finished the game with 24 points and was five of eight from three-point land! He also scored Miami's last 11 points of the game. Losing is tough, but I tip my hat to Rodriguez for his performance tonight.

Now on to the Gators. Eli Carter was the leading scorer for the Gators as he made eight of his nine shot attempts for 21 points. He had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but his shot was negated as he committed a charging foul that fouled him out of the game.

The second highest scorer, and my Gator MVP for this game despite the loss, was Jon Horford. I have fallen in love with Horford's play ever since he arrived here and he did not disappoint tonight. He scored 17 points and showed us all how versatile he can be as as big man as he nailed three of his six three-point attempts. He also made all four of his free throw attempts, two of which came in crunch time.

Late in the game, Horford scored eight straight points for the Gators as they tried to rally against the Hurricanes. In the paint, he was a beast as his seven rebounds were the second highest on the team. Defensively, Horford was very solid as he recorded three blocks.

Just like the William & Mary game, Michael Frazier II rounds out the double digit scorers. He had 13 points and converted one of just two three-pointers. This is a very low number of three-point attempts for Frazier considering his primary role is to shoot from the perimeter. Still, Gator fans should not worry as this is only just the second game of the regular season. Frazier II will eventually rediscover his game as the season crosses over into 2015.

Now that I have covered the top scorers, it is time to look at the leading Gator rebounder for this game: Jacob Kurtz. Assuming a starting role this game in lieu of an injured Dorian Finney-Smith, Kurtz nabbed eight rebounds in 36 minutes of playing time. He was also able to slip in the paint unnoticed a couple of times on route to a modest six points in the game.

Kurtz did some facilitating as well as he totaled two assists. He is just a hard worker who hustles and gives his all game in and game out. I thoroughly enjoy watching Jacob Kurtz play and succeed at the D-1 level.

The final starter I have yet to mention is Kasey Hill. Shooting-wise, he was terrible tonight as he could not score anything after making his first shot. He would end up going one for eight for just two points. However, he somewhat made up for it by dishing out a team leading eight assists.

Hill, like Frazier II, is still struggling even though he did a much better job with passing the ball tonight. Considering the two were high school teammates, they should find a way to challenge each other to perform to the potential they know they are both capable of.

Up 14 points at one point with 8:29 left in the game, Florida let this one get away from them. This game can be best summarized as a defensive breakdown by the Gators that allowed a hot-handed Angel Rodriguez to beat them.

The Florida Gators still lead the all-time series 9-3, but getting upset at home by one of their arch rivals is sure to leave a bad taste in head coach Billy Donovan's mouth for the next few days. I can confidently say that he will be putting more emphasis on defense in the team's upcoming practices.

Looking to regroup, a now 1-1 Florida Gator squad will turn its attention to another home game against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (2-0) on Friday, November 21st. They will surely fall out of the Top 10 after this Miami loss at home, but they need to turn it around against UL-Monroe or they will be in danger of sliding either further. Tipoff for this game is at 8 p.m.

For Miami, it is a completely different story. Coming off one of the biggest wins in program history, they will most likely enter the Top 25 after this week. The Hurricanes (2-0) and Angel Rodriguez will look to stay hot as they head back to Coral Gables to take on the Drexel Dragons (0-2) on Thursday, November 20th. Tipoff is at 3 p.m.

*Stats accredited to Gatorzone.com & sports-reference.com

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