Florida's athletic history is rich and detailed, and has a surprising number of games available to watch after the fact. Gators Never Forget will be an occasional series of "revive blogs," running commentaries on past games that provide the deepest, most detailed analysis of those games possible. We begin, one week after Florida basketball's first loss of 2012-13, with Florida's last loss of 2011-12, a 72-68 defeat at Louisville's hands in the Elite Eight.
So I had my mom keep the Florida-Louisville Elite Eight game on our DVR at home until now because I knew I was going to want to watch it again at some point. Because she loves me, it's stayed there for about nine months, around The Voice and The Daily Show and other things. Now that I'm home for the holidays, the time has come to revisit one of the most devastating losses of my life as a Gators fan.
I'm going to go point by point, and roughly possession by possession.
In the pregame, Reggie Miller says Bradley Beal plays more like "6'7" or 6'8" because of his wingspan." Part of why I hate Reggie Miller? He's so consistently wrong about things. Beal played like he was 6'5", maybe, but not like he was 6'8".
It is tremendously easy to forget that Florida was a No. 7 seed last year, especially with how well the Gators were playing in their last six games.
Ugh, I forgot Karl Hess was the ref for this game.
Immediately, on the first rebound of the game, Bradley Beal tries to do too much, knocking the ball out of bounds to keep it with Louisville.
And then, good lord, Beal pured a three from 25 feet with that gorgeous shot on Florida's first possession.
Between that and Kenny Boynton knifing to the hoop and getting a Gorgui Dieng goaltend on a floater, and Patric Young tossing in a left-handed hook shot from the post, the Gators looked great early in establishing a 7-0 lead.
Erik Murphy telegraphed an outlet pass that led to a turnover and killed some of that momentum. A steal that popped the ball out of Young's hands led to a Peyton Siva three and finished the rest of it off.
Erving Walker's first quick three comes at the 15:22 mark. It doesn't fall.
Kyle Kuric gives Louisville the lead with a three produced by good ball movement, and the game is 8-7 in Louisville's favor at the under-16 timeout.
How did Florida respond? Boynton with a contested three just after that timeout, meh transition defense that allowed a layup, a Scottie Wilbekin travel.
But then Florida ran pretty offense, and Boynton penetrated and kicked to Murphy for an easy three.
Dieng goaltends again on a Wilbekin floater, but Kuric makes up for it with another three.
Beal answers right back with another three and gets it to 15-13, Florida at the under-12. To that point, he was 19-for-28 in the NCAA Tournament and 8-of-16 for three. Insane play, but, again: To that point.
Beal takes another three from the corner and is just off, then can't stay with Kuric.
Casey Prather has a wide open three/wide open 20-footer, but tries to penetrate and turns it over. Good defense on the other end against Chane Behanan, though.
Erv with a great find of Pat for an easy dunk in the half court, then an even better find in transition for another. One underrated thing about Erv, especially in light of Boynton's struggles this year: He knew exactly what he was doing as a Billy Donovan point guard.
Siva gets lucky to hold on to the ball on an out-of-control drive, and Dieng gets a tough shot to go over Young. Then Florida lets the shot clock expire at the other end.
Siva puts in a fadeaway over Erving Walker, then immediately gets his "third personal foul," according to the announcers. Florida 19, Louisville 19 at the under-8, but everything Florida's doing seems sustainable and balanced, while Louisville is making a bunch of long jumpers, getting 13 of their points from them. With a little more offensive execution, it seems, Florida could be up five points.
Rick Pitino leaves Siva in (five points, five assist, "three fouls") and he immediately kinda fouls Beal on a drive (it doesn't get called) and Beal kicks to Boynton for a three.
Bad box out by Florida leads to a tip slam by Behanan.
Siva then fouls again, for the "fourth" time, but it's actually his second, and he sits. Florida gets a Murphy three on the possession.
Prather helps block and erase one Louisville possession, but then goes up for a dunk that he can't get in the half court, which leads to a run-out that turns into a quick two for Dieng.
Walker answers with a three, Florida's sixth of the first half and one that pushes Florida's lead to five points, but he literally trips in transition and Louisville gets a quick two.
Beal slides to space and gets a quick two of his own. Florida is up 30-25 and has made 12 of 17 shots to this point.
Dieng hits a very long two, but Walker answers with another three. Florida is 13-of-18 from the field, 7-of-10 from three, and up 33-27. And then Louisville turns it over at the other end.
A terrible in-bounds pass from Murphy that Beal can't handle gives the ball right back to Louisville, but Russ Smith can't get a driving layup to go, and Dieng goes over the back on the rebound, setting up a Murphy 1-and-1. Florida 33, Louisville 27 at the under-4.
Murphy makes both free throws.
Len Elmore jokes that Erv is 5'3". He's not, but ... that's not that far off.
Really soft second foul on Prather sends him to the bench and gets Murphy back on the court, and Louisville attacks and gets a two immediately after.
Boynton takes a bad contested three and makes it anyway. Florida 38, Louisville 29. Gators 8-for-11 from three.
Erv forces a runner on his own, and Florida gives up an offensive rebound, but Louisville gets no points. Boynton comes back down and gets fouled on a layup, but misses one of two free throws. Still, Florida gets to its biggest lead at 39-29.
Jared Swopshire drives against Murphy and gets a twisting layup to fall. Prather, back in, just misses swatting it on a chasedown.
Boynton overcooks a floater, but Prather grabs an offensive board and gets fouled. He misses the front end of a one-and-one.
Russ Smith scythes in again and gets fouled, then makes both free throws. He's not done much to this point, with just four points, but that would be an issue in the second half.
Nathan Whitaker gets mentioned, obliquely, in the context of Tony Dungy giving Billy Donovan a call.
Murphy gets fouled and goes to the line. Miller calls Florida "one of the better free throw-shooting teams in the nation." Murphy makes both free throws.
Louisville gets the last possession, but takes an awful long two, and Florida gets the rebound with five seconds left. Beal takes it up and takes a three over two guys. It doesn't fall. Florida had all five timeouts. Gators 41, Cardinals 33 at halftime.
"With as many threes as we made, you'd think we'd be up by more points," Donovan says on the way into the locker room.
CBS comes back to a montage of first half action with something that sounds like Wiz Khalifa's "Work Hard, Play Hard" but isn't. It really should've been.
"They're hurting us on their early offense," Rick Pitino says. That actually seemed more like Louisville's game plan? Whatever.
Florida immediately begins the second half with a great play: Murphy inbounds to Walker, and Murphy heads to the bottom left corner. Beal is in the left post; Young is in the right. Young flashes out to screen Siva, defending Walker, and Dieng is caught in a zone look, and doesn't come all the way with him. Beal streaks across the low post, finding airspace, and Walker comes off the screen and finds him for an easy jumper; Behanan, who has been pointing at Beal most of the possession but was forced to hang with Murphy, can do nothing, and Dieng is too late to the jumper. Billy Donovan is really good at designing plays and he should probably do it more often.
Siva kicks to Kuric, who finally misses a three. Boynton gets a good rebound. Young is fed underneath, but can't go up and under Dieng. In transition, Chris Smith leaks to the wing, and Boynton, who has gotten back to the paint for some reason, can't get to him in time to prevent a three. Really poor defense from Boynton.
Boynton makes up for it ... by driving and getting whistled for an offensive foul. This would be a bad half for him.
Dieng sets a (moving) screen, and Siva blows by Young and gets fouled on a layup. He'll make both free throws.
A horrible possession by Florida: No one can find position inside, Young sets a lazy screen that allows Chris Smith to get around him and thwart a Beal shot, and the ball eventually goes to Boynton, who has to jack a three. Dieng probably fouls Young on the rebounding opportunity, too.
Louisville gets a quick offensive set (Siva drives, ball-fakes, finds Kuric for three), but the killer play is Behanan getting an offensive rebound and putback from beneath the hoop because he boxes out Murphy and Young doesn't help. It's 43-40, Louisville, and the Cards are on a 7-0 run. Erv takes timeout.
Florida's next set is designed to get Beal the ball, but he has to dish to Murphy, who basically hands the ball to Siva and then fouls him to cut off transition.
Louisville runs a gorgeous double screen: Chris Smith comes around Dieng and Behanan, and then Kuric comes around them, and Dieng maybe sticks his leg out to make Beal stumble getting around the screen. Kuric has an open three, but it rims out.
Erv runs the Erv offense and sinks a long stepback jumper for two. Louisville takes a quick three and Walker esponds in kind, but Young snags another offensive rebound. Florida nearly gets a five-second call on the inbounds, but Beal finds Boynton, who drives and finds Beal, and Beal puts in a very difficult contested layup over Dieng on a double-clutch move. Less than a minute of game time after Kuric missed a tying three, Florida's up seven again.
Young makes a great contest on a Dieng leaner, which rims out, and he grabs the rebound, but he then gets too aggressive on the runout and commits an offensive foul after getting the ball back in transition. It's Florida 47, Louisville 40 at the under-16.
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Pretty sure Echo Kellum of the very good Ben & Kate was in the Bud Light ad with the dog called Wego.
Siva tries to hit over Murphy and it doesn't work; Dieng also fails to put in a tip. Behanan gets his third whistle at the 15:22 mark of the second half on defense.
Beal nearly fails to get another inbound in, but Boynton drives and gets a phantom foul on Dieng. He sinks his first free throw and stretches Florida's lead to eight.
Siva immediately cuts it back to six with a fantastic tip-in on a Behanan miss; Murphy goes up and under on a reverse to get back to eight; Chris Smith streaks downcourt in transition to pull it back to six.
With Walker and Young both out, Wilbekin runs point for Florida and finds Murphy open with only Siva on him. Murphy tries the same up-and-under, but Dieng helps, and he finds Prather in the corner; Prather drives to the paint, then kicks to a wide-open Boynton up top. But Kenny misses the three.
Chris Smith makes a very difficult fading 16-footer over Boynton's contest. With the lead back to four, Donovan calls timeout.
Beal comes out of the timeout and goes to the rim, and gets a third goaltending against Dieng by making him make a quick decision.
Really important moment: Prather takes a charge and gets Behanan's fourth foul, leaving Louisville with no choice but to put Swopshire back in and leave Dieng as their only true big. How does Florida respond? With an awful possession that features Walker dribbling off Dieng's foot while trying to take him one-on-one and Walker throwing a fastball to the corner that Beal couldn't have handled even if he was 6'7" that resulted in a turnover. (I think dribbling off a defender's foot is a kicked ball violation, but it's easy to miss.) After the possession, Donovan is shown kneeling with his hand on his brow. It's Florida's 10th turnover of the day; Louisville has just three.
Russ Smith makes a nice pass to Dieng, wide open from the foul line, but he misses and Florida rebounds. Louisville made tough shots early, then missed open shots in the middle of this game.
Erv and Pat combine for this:
Florida goes back up eight. Pitino calls timeout.
One thing that I totally forgot: Louisville switched a lot of screens with Walker in them, and Dieng ended up on Walker a lot. But that alley-oop wasn't about Walker making a great decision (though it was, and a beautiful pass to get the ball over Dieng) as it was Young rolling aggressively to the hoop.
After Wilbekin is whistled for a quick foul, Siva penetrates and finds Swopshire for an open three. He misses, and Beal steps out on the rebound, but Kuric is called for a push.
Florida runs a nice offensive set, but Beal's kick out to Murphy for a three at the top of the arc isn't thrown hard enough to get Murph space to rise and fire. And Beal makes a great move to free himself for an open three, but he's well short and it clicks off the front iron. I certainly didn't think we'd already seen the last three Beal would make as a Gator, but we had.
Also, since Behanan's fourth foul, Florida hasn't really even tried to post up inside.
Russ Smith drives right at three Florida defenders and gets a foul. Florida 54, Louisville 46 at the under-12.
Smith misses the first of two free throws. Louisville presses off the second make, but Florida gets it across, and then Siva fouls Wilbekin on a drive on which Wilbekin falls.
Florida gets Dieng on Beal, but Beal passes to Walker. Siva then gets called for his fourth foul on a Walker trip-drive, and Pitino gets whistled for a technical. Erv swishes both technical foul shots, then adds both of the one-and-one shots to stretch Florida's lead to 10 points. Siva remains in the game for the free throws, but comes out after them. Florida is on an 8-1 run.
Russ Smith, now Louisville's point guard, makes a difficult pull-up jumper over a contest.
Walker gets Dieng on a switch again, but finds Murphy on a smaller man; Murphy turns the ball into the lane and gets a five-foot hook shot to fall.
An early taste of Russdiculousness: Smith blows by Young and gets fouled on a flying layup, then makes the and-one. After just four points in the first half, he's gotten Louisville's last six points and nulled the four free throws and Murphy hook shot. Florida still leads by eight at 60-52.
Mike Rosario, who has played sparingly and is wearing kicks with an electric yellow stripe on the hell for some reason, has to pick up his dribble near the end of the shot clock, which triggers a frantic series of passes that still gets Kenny an open three, which he misses. (Florida's now 0-for-5 from three in the second half.) Behanan, back in the game with four fouls, gets the rebound.
Russ Smith gets another good look in the semicircle, but misses. Rosario takes the ball at the hoop in semi-transition, hits a beautiful floater off glass, and gets fouled. (An in-uniform Will Yeguete, Walter Pitchford, and Cody Larson are all excited about the play on the bench.) He sinks the and-one to put Florida up 63-52 with 9:04 to go.
Florida's also already in the double bonus, and Behanan, Siva, and Kuric all have four fouls. All three are in the game for Louisville at this point, and Siva drives but gets caught in the trees and misses.
Murphy throws a terrible entry pass over a defender to Young that results in a turnover, and it turns into a transition foul on Behanan that Florida's lucky to not have count as an and-one. Behanan makes both free throws.
Florida runs another double screen on the wing that sees Beal getting around Young (who rolls to the hoop) and Murphy (who pops to the three-point line) and getting a chance to go up for a layup against a slow-switching Dieng. He passes back to an open Young instead, and though the pass is bad, Kuric gambles and goes for the wrong side of Young, allowing Pat to recover and throw down another dunk. Florida gets back to an 11-point lead with 8:12 remaining.
Siva runs a quick little screen at Young, and Florida's caught in two ways: Murphy has Dieng rolling to the hoop on one side and Behanan wide open from three on the other. He reacts to neither, and Behanan drains the three to cut Florida's lead to single digits. For good.
Florida runs the exact same double screen with Beal, Young, and Murphy, but it's higher, and no Cardinal bites on it. Beal gets Behanan on the switch at the top of the arc, but passes instead of driving and trying to draw a foul. Boynton ends up with the ball on the wing after a back screen on the baseline, but Siva plays fantastic post denial defense on Murphy to stop Florida from taking advantage of a huge mismatch, and Walker ends up with the ball and Dieng on him again. Instead of driving, he takes a pull-up from 15 feet, and just misses. But Beal gets the rebound. He works it to Boynton on the wing, Siva defending, but Dieng looms to cut off a drive, and Walker gets it back. Young, with Kuric on him, works free, and Walker finds him in the middle of the lane, but he settles for a hook shot instead of taking it to the rim. The ball goes out, and appears to go out off Behanan, but Louisville gets the call. Florida 65, Louisville 57 at the under-8 with 6:52 left.
That possession wasn't even necessarily bad offense (Walker and Young were both open, if I'm being honest), but Beal and Young not taking the ball to the rim when half of the other team on the court was in danger of fouling out and Florida was in the double bonus? Man, that is painful to watch with 20/20 hindsight.
"Do they have enough firepower to get back in this ballgame?" Reggie Miller asks. He later suggests Behanan can score on any Florida player. I hate his announcing so, so much.
Behanan posts up, gets fed, and puts in a bucket. Lead cut to six.
Russ Smith pressures Walker at midcourt and nearly jars the ball loose twice, but gets called for a foul and sends Walker to the line. Walker then misses both free throws. Florida's just 11-of-16 from the line.
Russ Smith then splits a double, loses the ball, and somehow gets it to Behanan for an easy two that he misses. Prather gets a board. That's a big bucket dodged.
Florida gets Erv wide open off a screen, but he clanks the three. Siva penetrates and finds Russ Smith, who hits a three at the other end to slice the lead to three.
With Young off the floor, Florida is very small, with Prather playing forward. That means the Gators aren't even bothering to feed the inside inside. Beal tries to drive, but travels by making his decision to drive too late.
Donovan subs Wilbekin and Young back in. Smith outfoxes Boynton and finds a spot to take a 10-footer. It hits the back of the hoop, goes dead, and falls in.
Beal drives in semi-transition and gets a layup at the other end, but it doesn't go in.
Louisville gets two shots that hit rim, but neither goes in, and Florida clings to its 65-64 lead. At the other end, Siva gets switched onto Young and wraps his arms around him, earning his fifth foul. Young pumps his fist, and Florida goes into the under-4 with a 65-64 lead, Young shooting two free throws, and Siva disqualified.
Young makes his first free throw, but misses the second. Florida pushes its lead to 66-64.
Young plays perfect defense to contest two Russ Smith shots, but the ball goes out on Florida, giving Louisville second life. Smith drives, gets doubled, and appears screwed, but throws a bounce pass to Behanan while falling out of bounds, and Behanan pump-fakes, then goes up strong for a tough two over Young and Murphy that really should've been an and-one. Florida 66, Louisville 66.
Walker's back in, and Florida has its starting lineup on the floor. He drives wildly and has to dish out to Murphy in midair, but Murphy passes off to Boynton, who takes Russ Smith right to the hoop and scores. Florida 68, Louisville 66, with just the second drive of the last eight minutes getting rewarded.
Beal helps on a Russ Smith drive to send him inside, where Smith runs into Murphy and has no one to pass to, forcing his own turnover. Florida has the ball, a two-point lead, and two timeouts.
And Beal drives to the basket against Kuric, probably gets fouled, and has his shot erased by Dieng. Two drives by Florida's best driver in the last eight minutes so far, and no points from them. Louisville calls timeout on the other end.
While chasing Chris Smith around a lazy Behanan screen, Walker trips and grabs him, and gets whistled. Smith hits his first free throw to cut the lead to 68-67, but misses the second, and Beal grabs the board.
After getting the ball on a bad pass and doing well to corral it, Beal has an opportunity to drive against Behanan after a switch. Instead, he dishes to Walker, who hands off to Boynton, who steps back between Russ Smith and Chris Smith and takes an incredibly difficult off-balance contested 20-footer that misses. It's an awful shot made worse by the fact that no Florida player is anywhere near good rebounding position (it's hard to anticipate a bad shot like that), and one that definitely shouldn't have been taken.
On the next possession, Behanan gets the ball in the low post and waves Dieng off; all three Louisville guards are at least three feet behind the free throw line. Behanan backs down Murphy, and makes a move to the lane at about the same second that Young looks at Dieng, sealing this as a Behanan vs. Murphy matchup. He elevates over Murphy, who contests very well without fouling, and hits a shot that gives Louisville its first lead in more than 30 minutes of game time.
Beal brings the ball up and splits Kuric and Behanan, but goes up for a layup and gets swatted by Dieng. That's three drives by Florida's best driver in the final minutes of this game, none even getting a foul call. Young gets a rebound manfully, and dishes to Walker, who has no one on him. All five Louisville players are inside:
But Walker dribbles inside Russ Smith and takes a 20-footer instead of dishing to either Murphy (2-for-2 from three in this game) or Boynton for an open three. It catches the back iron, and Russ Smith ends up with the rebound.
Beal is clearly playing extraordinarily hard, even for him, and he picks up Russ Smith at half court. A bad screen by Dieng (what is this, his fifth?) sends Beal to the ground, and Smith takes advantage and drives on Young. But he gets cut off and has to go baseline, and Beal, recovering to the paint, is in position to snag his floating pass to no one.
Then, with two timeouts, he travels.
That mistake is the defining moment of Beal's Florida career for someone who only watched the NCAA Tournament, I suppose, but it's not mine. (I might still make a list at some point. Who knows?) But it's not a bad example of Beal's play: He's trying to do too much too late, to advance the ball after that interception instead of taking timeout and waiting for one more play, and it backfires, but not because of lack of want. His "Dammit, shouldn't have done that" face after the play is great, too.
The traveling call is also a great example of Dieng being an enormous pest on this day: He's somehow just in Beal's way at the wrong moment, and gets rewarded for it.
Louisville gets the ball in to Russ Smith, and Boynton fouls him immediately. Smith hits both free throws to push the lead to 71-68, but Donovan calls timeout between the first and second free throws to get a play in so that the timeout-less Cardinals can't react on defense.
Florida runs a very good play: Beal goes to the corner and takes a handoff from Walker that forces a switch, and Young sets a screen that frees Beal for a three. But Beal is off balance and has his shot well-contested by Wayne Blackshear, and it hits front iron. To Beal's infinite credit, he gets the rebound as the only Florida player in the paint (Young has been knocked down), and finds Boynton for another three, a rhythm one that Kuric doesn't contest. It hits the right side of the rim, and Young, who has rolled to the hoop to rebound, is in the wrong position to retrieve it, and stands between Russ Smith and the ball and not Blackshear and the ball. Blackshear grabs the ball, maybe double-dribbles, and gets fouled.
Blackshear misses the first of his two free throws, but makes the second to get it to 72-68. Erv misses a leaning three at the buzzer, and the final score is Louisville 72, Florida 68.
This was an excruciating loss, and I suspect it will always be painful: Not only did Florida have this game more or less in hand for almost the duration, it collapsed on the same Elite Eight stage it collapsed on in 2011, and the same proximate cause of defeat, settling instead of dictating. That's something Beal realized after the fact, when he gave a pretty accurate autopsy of Florida's failure to Bullets Forever's Mike Prada:
That's why I asked Beal what he felt he learned about himself as a player after that experience. "Try to draw more contact, and stop just looking for contact," he said. "I think sometimes myself, as well as my teammates, when we drove, we were looking for the contact, looking for a foul call instead of just playing basketball and trying to finish at the rim. Also, we settled for too many jump shots. They were in foul trouble the whole game, and we didn't attack them at all."
I thought, for the nine months between then and now, that Beal was right about that, and that Florida took jumpers instead of driving and paid for it deal. It turns out that he was right, sort of: Beal, humble to a fault, had the "settled for too many jump shots" part right, but maybe flubbed the "we" part of it.
From the 9:04 mark, when Florida took a 63-52 lead, the Gators took 12 shots, and 10 jumpers, though that number counts a Young leaner, Boynton's off-glass floater, and a Beal floater as jumpers, and Beal took just one of the actual jumpers, an open three when Florida needed one. And the only two true layup attempts of the final 9:04 were his.
When watching the current Erving Walker-Kenny Boynton incarnations of Florida in tight games over the last five years, the thing I have ended up murmuring to myself under my breath is "Run offense, get good shots." Florida's offensive success is almost always based on smart screening that gets players open on the perimeter or rolling to the hoop, and sticking to that plan in the half court generally works.
Against Louisville, Florida didn't stick to that plan. And that's what did the Gators in.
Let me know what you think of this post and the new post series in the comments, and tell me what other games you would like me to look back at. I've got a fairly extensive library of football games, but I'm gonna need some help with other sports if I'm going to watch broadcasts.