Sunday March 10, 2013 BasketBlog: Rough road games, Murph, Chandler, etc.
Updated: 9:23am, March 11
Updated: 9:23am, March 11
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- While basking in the aftermath of his team’s biggest win of the season, Kentucky coach John Calipari took a moment to speak on behalf -- more specifically, in defense -- of the Florida Gators after storming back for a 61-57 stunning/stinging of the Southeastern Conference champions.
“Listen, they’ve lost some road games, just like everyone else,” Calipari said after his team erased a seven-point deficit by scoring the game’s final 11 points over the final 7 minutes. “But they’re still one of those teams that, in my mind, has a chance to get to the Final Four.”
UF fans still gnashing their teeth over the latest late-game collapse may find an outlet in Calipari’s remarks.
The Gators, for sure, have lost some road games. Unbeaten at home, UF finished 7-6 in true road games, including 5-4 in the SEC. Three of those losses -- Arizona, Missouri and Kentucky -- were as maddening as they confounding.
Right now, Duke looks like the clear-cut choice to be the top overall NCAA Tournament now that forward Ryan Kelly is back, but even Kelly may not have mattered much in the Blue Devils 27-point blowout loss at Miami.
No. 1 Gonzaga is a terrific team but will continue to be scrutinized for its Mountain West schedule. Remember what happened to Indiana (now No. 2) at Illinois? Or at home against Wisconsin and Ohio State, for that matter? Kansas losing at Texas Christian, currently No. 244 in the RPI, might be the worst loss of any team in the nation this season. The Jayhawks, though, are still in the running for a No. 1 seed after being blown out by 23 at Baylor Saturday night.
Georgetown lost at South Florida. Miami lost at Wake Forest and home against Georgia Tech, two of its conference bottom-feeders, the last two weeks. Michigan went to rival Michigan State and lost by 23 and then were routed by Penn State, winless in the Big Ten through 14 games at the time.
Anyone see how Michigan played down the stretch (with a Big Ten title on the line, no less) Sunday?
Personal observation: To me, Louisville looks as dangerous as any team in the country right now, given their resume, and don’t sleep on Michigan State despite three losses over its previous four games.
Of the Gators’ five losses, four have come by six points or less -- and three came because the team completely unraveled down the stretch. UF blew a seven-point lead at Arizona with less than 1:20 to play, a 13-point lead at Missouri with under 11 minutes to go and a seven-point lead with seven to go at Kentucky without scoring a point.
Finishing games and closing leads on the road is a problem.
But here is a reality: The six teams Florida has lost to are a combined 98-9 at home, with the four SEC teams checking in at 64-6.
Here is another reality: The Gators play no more road games this season.
For what it’s worth -- not much -- UF is 2-0 in neutral-site games this season, with a 19-point win over Middle Tennessee State (the Sun Belt Conference regular season champ currently ranked 24th in the RPI) in Tampa, and 17-point win over Air Force (which Saturday upset No. 2 RPI New Mexico) at Sunrise.
Make you feel better?
OK, it shouldn’t, because here’s another reality; a hard-hitting one.
There will be close games in the postseason.
Wonder how will the Gators respond?
MURPH BOWS UP
On the initial possession of Saturday’s game, senior forward Erik Murphy turned to rebound UK’s first shot and was promptly pile-driven -- “Totally legal,” Coach Billy Donovan said -- but Cats freshman Alex Poythress, who grabbed the ball and put it in the basket.
On the ensuing UF possession, its first, Murphy drove the ball into the lane and tried a baby hook that 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein swatted into a transition break and dunk for the Cats.
Timeout Gators just 48 seconds into the game.
“We were just too loose,” Donovan said.
Murphy got a talking and a brief seat on the bench. He obviously got the message because upon re-entering the game Murphy went six for his next 10 shots (3-for-6 from the arc) and finished with 17 points and tied his career high of 11 rebounds.
“I need to do more of that,” Murphy said.
That’s especially true when Patric Young is only getting two rebounds, as he did Saturday, a number that included none in the second half.
A more active, aggressive and ball-chasing Young, plus Murphy doing a better job on the glass would be a welcome sight heading into the postseason. UF has been out-rebounded or stalemated on the glass five of the last six games.
The Wildcats out-rebounded the Gators 21-13 in the second half, a number aided but certainly not limited to Florida missing its last 11 shots.
Aside from Texas A&M and Missouri, both of whom are new to the league this year, what school has never won a regular season SEC men’s basketball championship? Answer below in the “Free Throws” section.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons averaged 27 points, including a career-high 32 in a win over Dallas. But those scoring numbers are only part of the story. Parsons, the second-year pro, made 29 of his 41 shots from the floor (that would be 70.9 percent) and a dazzling 17-for-23 from 3-point range (that would be 73.9 percent). Between Parsons, David Lee, Joakim Noah and rookie Bradley Beal, there are some Gators playing really, really well in the NBA this season.
CHARTING THE GATORS
Let’s flush out the numbers cited above regarding UF’s six losses.
Date: Dec. 15
Current RPI: 13
Synopsis: Outscored 8-0 in the final 1:20 of the first half and 7-0 in the final 58 seconds of the game, including a game-winning drive by Mark Lyons with 7.1 seconds to go.
Home record: 16-2 (lost to UCLA and California)
Date: Dec. 22 at Kansas City (NCAA classifies this as a true road game because K-State controlled the ticket sales and distribution)
Current RPI: 21
Synopsis: The Gators were listless from the start, shooting just 33 percent for the game and 26 percent from the 3-point line while playing from behind most of the second half.
Home record: 18-1 (lost to Kansas)
Date: Feb. 5
Current RPI: 75
Synopsis: Razorbacks came in shooting 29 percent from 3-point range, but made seven of their first nine 3-point shots from distance and led by 23 nine minutes into the game. Gators lost Will Yeguete after one minute to a knee injury.
Home record: 18-1 (lost to Syracuse in SEC-Big East challenge)
Date: Feb. 19
Current RPI: T-29
Synopsis: Gators led 49-36 inside 11 minutes to go, but were outscored 27-11 the rest of the way. UF went 6-for-12 from free-throw line (including three missed front ends in the second half) and clanged a 3-point shot by Kenny Boynton to take the lead with 19 seconds to play.
Home record: 17-0
Date: Feb. 26
Current RPI: T-54
Synopsis: Jordan McRae scored 27 points and the Gators missed two key scoring chances -- a 3 by Boynton and 2-point basket by Mike Rosario waved off by an offensive foul -- in the final two minutes.
Home record: 13-3 (lost to Memphis, Ole Miss and Georgia)
Date: March 9
Current RPI: 50
Synopsis: After taking a seven-point lead with 7:36 to play, the Gators failed to score another point. Their final 14 possessions resulted in 14 missed field-goal attempts -- including a game-tying attempt by Boynton with 12 seconds to go -- no free throws and five turnovers.
Home record: 16-2 (lost to Baylor and Texas A&M)
IRREVERENT GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
After carding just eight assists at Kentucky, the Gators have combined for just 15 the last two games. ... With UF still on spring break, Donovan was allowed to bring his team back for practice Sunday rather than give them a day off. And he did. The workout included lots of fundamental drills, with emphasis on passing and layups, then scrimmage in late-game situations. The Gators will spend most of the next few days working on themselves, as their third-round opponent in the SEC Tournament in Nashville won’t be determined until LSU (19-10) and Georgia (15-15) play Thursday. ... Junior forward Will Yeguete had four points and six rebounds against Kentucky and looked better -- certainly with his movement and confidence -- than he had in any of three games back since knee surgery. Finally, a shoutout to Ben Clarfield, a Canadian trainer in town over spring break for a one-week internship with UF strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene (who is clearly at the top of his field, by the way). Ben (pictured right), with some coaxing and coaching, got me pointed down a new fitness path that hopefully sticks. Thank you, sir. ... Trivia answer: Ole Miss.