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Saturday December 3, 2011Gators Can't Overcome Turnovers and Inconsistent Shooting in Loss at No. 4 Syracuse

By Chris Harry 

GatorZone.com Contributing Writer 

 

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Patric Young got the ball deep into the post, just like the Florida Gators knew had to happen -- a bunch -- if they were to have success against the bigger, longer and home-team Syracuse Orange. The 6-foot-9, 247-pound Young wheeled on 7-foot center Fab Melo for better position and extended his forearm just enough to create the space the baseline official needed to see to whistle Young for a clear-out. 

 

So with less than nine minutes gone in the game, the Gators found themselves even more overmatched in the frontcourt, with their biggest and best low-post option heading to the bench with two personal fouls. 

 

“It’s a little different when Patric is in there,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

 

That goes for both ends. 

 

On offense, the 10th-ranked Gators relied too much on the 3-point shot and struggled with dribble-penetration Friday night. On defense, they were forced to roll out their four-guard alignment against the huskier and fourth-ranked Orange. The combination made for an inconsistent night shooting, too many turnovers, not enough rebounds and a 72-68 loss before a delighted Carrier Dome throng of 24,459 that needed someone other than the local authorities (and a disgraced former assistant coach) to hate on. 

 

SU guard Brandon Triche scored 20 points and point man Scoop Jardine added 16 points and seven assists to pace the Orangemen (8-0) to their first win over a top-10 team on their home floor in 11 years. 

 

Florida got a team-high 22 points from junior guard Kenny Boynton and 17 from point guard Erving Walker, but the Gators (5-2) shot just 43.3 percent for the game against SU’s vaunted match-up zone, turned the ball over 20 times and were out-rebounded for the first time this season (40-23, including a decisive 17-10 on the offensive glass). 

 

“We played the first half with absolutely no front-court presence, with Patric with two fouls, and we were pretty predictable on offense,” Donovan said. “Some of that was me trying create some penetration and get those guys to drive the ball to at least try and get the zone to shrink. ... We just didn’t have anyone to throw it into.” 

 

Minus Young, and with forward Erik Murphy still sidelined with a knee injury, it was time for the Gators to try and live by the three-point shot. After going 3-for-14 from the arc in the first half, UF trailed just 31-27, and then opened the second half on a 5-for-7 tear from distance, with Boynton bombing four in the first 10 1/2 minutes out of the locker room to help erase a nine-point Syracuse and put Florida ahead 49-46. 

 

But Triche answered on the next trip down court, nailing a 3-pointer that broke a 1-for-14 string from long-range. Worse for the visitors, it kicked in an 8-0 run for the Orangemen, as Florida went 3 1/2 minutes without a point, turning it over twice and missing two free throws along the way. 

 

“That’s a good defense,” Boynton allowed, “but those turnovers are our turnovers. They’re on us.” 

 

“They did a good job of getting rebounds and getting out on their break,” Walker said. “That’s not an easy zone to play against, but we still had some good looks at the basket and actually shot a good percentage (53.3) in the second half. We just turned the ball over up too much and gave up too many easy baskets.” 

 

The Syracuse lead swelled to as much as nine and the Orange protected it by hitting free throws down the stretch. They finished 17-of-20 from the line, including 13-16 in the second half. 

 

Let the record show that UF’s two losses have come on the road against teams currently ranked No. 2 and No. 4 in the nation. Something positive to take home, right? 

 

“No,” Boynton said. 

 

Walker was with him. 

 

“We don't want any moral victories,” he said. “We could have won the game. They made a few more plays down the stretch.”

 

The Gators are not the team they envisioned right now with Murphy on the sideline. Yes, they lost at Ohio State with Murphy. And yes, they turned the ball over too much at Columbus. But Murphy is 6-10. And while he may not be a force inside, his 3-point shooting (57.1 percent before his injury) means a big man has to come out and get him. 

 

Against SU, that defender probably would have been forward Kris Joseph (14 points, 5 rebounds, including 4 offensive). Instead, he floated low and banged away on whatever Gator dared enter the paint. 

 

“Makes a big difference,” Boynton said of Murphy's zone-stretching threat. “[But] we can’t use the excuse that Murph wasn’t there. I think we have enough players that someone can step in fill that role.” 

 

They also need Young to play more than six minutes in the first half. He never got into a flow and finished with just six points and five rebounds. Meanwhile freshman guard Brad Beal slid down the power forward spot and scored just seven points (2-for-9 from the floor) but grabbed 10 rebounds and played 39 minutes. Those are admirable numbers, but not optimal ones for this team. 

 

UF has beaten Jackson State, North Florida, Wright State, Jacksonville and Stetson. 

 

Road losses at Ohio State and now Syracuse are the games the Gators will be focusing on going forward.  

 

“We’ve played two road games against two legitimate top-five teams,” said Donovan, whose team plays host to Arizona Wednesday night. “There are things we got better at.”

 

Note: Donovan said the lack of playing time for junior guard Mike Rosario, who was averaging 10 points off the bench for the Gators this season, was a decision made on the bench. "The last couple days, I think emotionally, he just hasn't been there." Rosario played six minutes in the first half, went 0-for-2 from the floor (including an airball), sank two free throws and had a turnover in six minutes. "I tried to use him a little bit and he just did not seem himself," Donovan said. "It was more my decision not to play him. I actually felt like we needed defense because I knew we were going to have a hard time scoring with Patric off the floor." Rosario, the transfer from Rutgers, was the team’s fourth-leading scorer coming into the game and was shooting 51 percent from the floor and 48.6 percent from 3-point range. HIs six minutes were a season-low, by far.

 

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