After 10 minutes in the fifth-place game in the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis, North Carolina led Florida, 20-4.
After 40 minutes, the Tar Heels had a win over the Gators — but only by a 75-64 margin, one that ended up a bit swollen by free throws at game's end.
Those first 10 minutes were absolutely brutal for Florida. The Gators missed their first 10 shots, and committed seven turnovers before Kasey Hill's second basket of the night ended the 20-4 run. Florida would play Carolina even for the rest of the half — it was 19-19 over the final 10:19 of play in the first half — but the damage had been done, and the Gators would get no closer than seven points for the rest of the evening.
But they tried like hell to close. Hill had his finest game as a Gator, wisely picking spots for his improved jumper (which got him four field goals on the night) and slashing to draw fouls, which allowed him to score nine of his career-high 20 points at the line. Michael Frazier II finally heated up near game's end, downing three second-half threes en route to 17 points, and chipped in nine rebounds against a tall Tar Heels lineup.
Chris Walker had just four points and four rebounds off the bench, but had two offensive rebounds on one possession in the first half, and played quite well in the game's final 10 minutes, throwing down a sick reverse jam and ending a Carolina possession with a huge block. And Devin Robinson (seven points, three boards), who air-balled another three in the first half, eventually flashed some of the form that had people buzzing about his abilities entering this season.
The silver linings are dulled by a double-digit loss, sure, and Dorian Finney-Smith being ineffective and fouling out (as did Robinson) is not a good thing. Neither was Eli Carter's cameo, which featured rusty play on par with his rough outing against Georgetown on Wednesday, nor Chris Chiozza's quiet night (two turnovers, two steals, no points) after a Thanksgiving breakthrough against UAB.
But Florida rallied to put pressure on a very good North Carolina team after playing like an intramural squad for 10 minutes of this game, and its defense was pretty good throughout. And there isn't a single Gator, Jacob Kurtz included, who hasn't had a good to really good game yet this year. That's promising, even if a 3-3 record isn't a great result for Florida against its November schedule.
There wasn't a ton to like about these Gators in the Bahamas on the macro level, but the micro level showed key players improving and finding their way. If those micro improvements turn into macro ones, a lot of good may come from a frustrating three days in paradise.