In my 20 years on this earth I thought I had seen it all. I knew that Florida basketball would not be the same this season after its Final Four run just a year ago and this was evidenced by heartbreaking late game losses to Miami and Georgetown. I thought for sure that the FSU game would be an easy win for the Gators as they prepared for UConn on January 3rd. I was wrong.
In the most unfathomable way, the Florida Gators lost on an essential buzzer beater to the Florida State Seminoles when the ball was accidentally tipped in by senior Jacob Kurtz. Let me begin by saying I love Kurtz to death. He was a former team manager who walked on to the team and saw some sporadic playing time last year. He has played a significant amount this year and in my opinion nobody on the team shows more heart and hustle than him. It is a shame this had to happen to him.
Let me break down the play. With three seconds on the clock and the game tied at 63, FSU guard Devon Bookert chucked up a three that was going to brick off the basket. Kurtz was in the paint and knew it was going to be short. However, he could not just stand there and let the seven foot FSU center, Michael Ojo, collect the rebound and lay it up to win the game. He did what every player in his position would do. He went up for the ball. Unfortunately the ball tipped off his fingers and went in the basket.
It was a freak play and gave FSU a 65-63 victory over Florida. However, I can't blame this loss on one player or play. In fact, it would be foolish for any Gator fan to blame this loss on Jacob Kurtz. Instead, I'll blame turnovers and missed opportunities. The Gators were sloppy the entire game as they turned the ball over 17 times! It was only close because FSU nearly turned it over just as much with 15 Seminole turnovers.
In regards to missed opportunities, Florida shot 42.6% from the field on 26 of 61 shooting and 21.1% from three-point land with 4 makes on 19 shots. As bad as this is, there is some good I can take away from this heartbreaking and straight up puzzling loss.
Sophomore guard Kasey Hill really upped his game tonight as he went seven of nine from the field for a game-high 17 points. He made all of his three free throws, which included some clutch ones down the stretch when the Gators were down by five in the last minute. He also totaled three assists on the night.
The other two Gators in double digits were Eli Carter and Michael Frazier II. Carter had 14 points on 55% shooting with seven rebounds while Frazier II had 11 points on 33% shooting with four rebounds. Frazier II made just two of his six three-point shots.
Apart from these three, I have really no one else to highlight because it was such a sloppy, poorly executed game. Kurtz had a game-high eight rebounds, but that eighth one came just nanoseconds before the infamous tip-in. That tip-in will be #1 on ESPN's Worst of the Worst for months to come. It will be the second time the Florida Gators are featured on Worst of the Worst as Quinton Dunbar's block on his own teammate during last year's loss against Georgia Southern stole the show. Like the latter, Kurtz's tip-in will be retired before any other play surpasses it.
After yet another agonizing late game loss, the Florida Gators (7-5) will have to find a way to move on and get ready for the UConn Huskies (6-4) in the O-Dome on January 3rd. Tipoff is at 2:00 p.m. I honestly cannot even tell you the last time that Florida lost to both in-state rivals FSU and Miami in the same season. All I know is that is has not happened in a while.
On the other side, FSU (8-5) has taken a page out of its football team's book and won on one of the luckiest breaks in the history of sports. Their five-game losing streak against Florida has ended and now they will face one more SEC opponent in Mississippi State (6-6) at home before heading into the gauntlet of ACC conference play. This game is on January 2nd and tipoff is at 8:00 p.m.
*All stats accredited to ESPN.com
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