Florida had a chance to win Billy Donovan's 500th game. The Gators had a six-point lead on the SEC's worst team — mired in the longest losing streak in school history — midway through the second half, too.
Then the Gators did what they are best at this year: They lost.
Missouri's slow-motion 25-7 run from that six-point hole would extend for the final 11:43 of the game, flipping a 45-39 deficit into the 64-52 final score — and Chris Chiozza's lightly contested layup with 37 seconds to go capped the game's scoring, so it was really more like a 25-5 run with two pity points chipped in at the end.
It wasn't all bad: Devin Robinson had 14 points on the night, 12 of them prior to that stretch of putrescent play, to lead the Gators, and scored seven of them in a personal 7-2 run in the first half. Jon Horford had 10 points, all in the first half, and eight rebounds. Apart from letting Tigers guard Namon Wright score 28 points, more than doubling his February output, Florida's defense played rather well: The rest of the Missouri rotation made just nine of 31 shots.
But that flailing finish in the second half was so, so bad. Florida made just nine of 23 free throws on the night, but, after Jacob Kurtz made the first of two free throws at that 11:43 mark, sank just three of 12 over that span. Its only field goals were a Chris Walker jumper (!?) and the Chiozza layup, and they were six minutes apart; the Walker jumper was more than five minutes after the Kurtz free throw. Missouri didn't make a field goal in the final 4:13 of play, and yet doubled its six-point lead.
Florida is bad right now, as bad in some ways as last year's magnificent team was good, as if the pendulum has swung all the way from one end of its period to the other. Its semi-realistic hopes of a winning season were vaporized tonight; its hopes of recording the 17th straight season 20-win season under Billy Donovan were already gone.
And Donovan's last three shots this regular season at winning his 500th game will come against Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Kentucky — teams that are better, much better, and almost incalculably better than the Missouri team that whipped these Gators down the stretch in Columbia.
Faith and hope have deserted the Gators this year. All that remains is pain.