Florida began their in-state bout against Miami on a 9-0 run. They maintained that lead until just under four minutes left in the game.
After that? It just got ugly, as Miami shot down the Gators' home winning streak in a 69-67 upset.
Eli Carter and Michael Frazier II looked as routine as could be, scoring 24 combined for the game, and were even perfect from the field (11-for-11) with seven minutes left to play. But in those last seven minutes, the two were nowhere to be found, going a combined 1-7.
It was Jon Horford who tried to play the hero role for Florida, with two big back-to-back three-pointers with less than five minutes to go, but even his best efforts (17 points, seven rebounds) weren't enough to spoil Miami's Angel Rodriguez and his fantastic 23-point performance for the Hurricanes. Rodriguez scored UM's last 11 points in just 2:48. It was disappointing, to say the least — Florida got Shabazzed by someone who wasn't Shabazz Napier.
But what was more disappointing than the final dagger by Rodriguez was the uncanny likeness of the Florida team that played the stretch of this game to the Gators of seasons past, in which Florida had all the shooters in the world, and could keep up with anyone if shots were falling, but flailed when those shots started to miss.
That all starts with point guard play, and Kasey Hill (two points, eight assists) was atrocious down the stretch in this game, notably committing two fouls on Rodriguez that had no business being made (one shooting, the other 40 feet from the basket) and displaying little of the calm that he showed in Florida's opener. Last year, Hill was great in a change-of-pace role as a complement to Scottie Wilbekin, and when he became erratic, he was subbed out. Donovan doesn't have that luxury this season, so Hill must improve.
With Florida undermanned, there was no post presence worth mentioning for the full 40 minutes, and that led to an inability to control the pace late, as Gators guards hoisted a series of bad shots. Florida's inability to generate any kind of methodical paint offense is worrisome moving forward, though with Finney-Smith and Chris Walker returning soonish and in Florida's Friday meeting with Louisiana-Monroe, things could look far less dire in short order.
It's never the loss itself, but how they lose that troubles Florida fans — and that's true in more than just football.
Tonight, with Gator Nation looking to Billy Donovan's boys to be a bright spot in a fall full of dark days, the pain remains.