After a seismic run that turned around a game that could scarcely have started worse, nothing was going to ruin Florida's Senior Night.
Not even the Gators' best attempts at bricklaying.
Despite letting a 16-point lead dwindle to a three-point advantage in the final minute by all but building the Pyramids at the line, Florida defeated Texas A&M, 66-62, on Tuesday night, claiming a Senior Night triumph for Jacob Kurtz and finding their way back to .500, however briefly.
Dorian Finney-Smith led Florida in scoring off the bench for the second straight contest, chipping in 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and three steals, and Devin Robinson joined him in double digits as a reserve with 10 points of his own. Alex Murphy added another nine from the pine, and both Eli Carter (11 points) and Chris Chiozza (10) finished in double digits, as well.
And Florida played very, very well after falling into a 10-0 hole by the under-16 timeout: The Gators responded to that with a 17-4 burst of their own, allowing the Aggies just one made basket over nearly nine minutes of play, and went into halftime leading by three at 26-23. In the second half, things nearly got out of hand, with Florida clicking off a 17-2 run that featured all nine of Murphy's points en route to their 16-point lead. The Gators even led by 16 again with 3:13 to play after five straight points from Carter.
Then, well, free throws became a mitigating factor.
Not only would Florida not record a shot attempt in that final 3:13, with Texas A&M more than happy to foul the worst team at the line in the SEC, but Florida was worse than usual at the charity stripe. Jon Horford hit two free throws to put Florida up 14 with 4:28 to play; after that, the Gators had one fully converted trip to the line in 10 visits.
In order: Carter missed the third free throw of a three-shot shooting foul, Kasey Hill went 1-for-2, Chiozza missed both, Horford went 1-for-2, Chiozza missed both again, Chiozza went 1-for-2, Horford went 1-for-2 again, Chiozza went 1-for-2 again, Carter stanched the bleeding with a 2-for-2 trip, and Hill went 1-for-2 with six seconds to go, making the second shot and effectively ending A&M's chances of winning.
Florida was 10-for-21 in that final 3:13, and the Aggies did their best to take advantage of that, making two threes and three layups in that span and converting eight of their nine free throws — despite being the second-worst team at the line in the conference — to whittle away the Gators' edge.
Per KenPom's win expectancy, Florida never had less than about a 92 percent chance of winning after taking its first 16-point lead. But it sure didn't feel like that.
Nevertheless, Kurtz got a final win in the O'Connell Center — barring Florida hosting postseason competition in the building, which seems, er, unlikely — and made a perfectly representative play in the process.
This came on the same possession as Kurtz's second attempt from three this season, of course, a shot he had to take because of the shot clock running down. So this possession consisted of him doing literally all he could — and getting hurt.
I'm glad the Gators sent their Snake out with a win.