Until this week, No. 8 Florida hadn’t lost on its home floor in 33 games. Friday night, the Gators almost suffered a second home loss in five days, as Louisiana-Monroe led by a dozen in the first half and later stormed back in the last minute to tie the game and force overtime. However, it was in the extra frame where shorthanded Florida pulled away from a 61-56 victory.
Free throws from Michael Frazier II put Florida up 51-43 with two minutes left, looking like the Gators had avoided the upset bid from their Sun Belt opponent. Nick Coppola had different plan, scoring five of his 11 points in the final 90 seconds — assisting on a 3-point field goal in that span — to force overtime.
Jon Horford had the only Florida field goal in overtime, as the Gators closed out the game from the line.
This was the second time this week, Florida coughed up a late-game lead, only this time the Gators regrouped to pick up a win. On Monday, Miami guard Angel Rodriguez lead the charge, scoring 22 of his 24 points with under nine minutes to play, in a come-from-behind win for the Hurricanes. Blowing a lead to Miami, especially given the zone Rodriguez was in is one thing, but to ULM — even without two starters — is a concern for Florida moving forward.
Following the game, Billy Donovan told reporters in the post-game press conference, “This is the team we’re taking to the Bahamas,” which would mean the Gators are going to the toughest early-season tournament without Dorian Finney-Smith or Eli Carter, who missed Friday’s game with a foot injury. In order to survive that field, the undermanned Florida team will need more out of Kasey Hill, who is shooting 3-of-21 from the field over his last two games with 10 assists and seven turnovers. They’ll also need rely heavily on Chris Walker, who recorded four points and six boards in 25 minutes in his season debut on Friday.
It won’t get easier when Florida returns to campus, as the Gators kick off December with a road game against Kansas.
Florida will have plenty of time to get its full roster on the floor — Duke transfer Alex Murphy isn’t eligible until the second semester — and it’s a long season to sort out its issues, but this week could be the beginning of a tough stretch for Donovan and Co.