Through 20 minutes in Orlando on Friday night, Florida had Gonzaga trailing, had the high-powered Bulldogs locked up and shut down. Through about 28, Florida had shown it could weather at least one spate of red-hot shooting from the Zags.
The problem was that it wasn’t a spate.
Gonzaga shot better than 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from three, answering defensive intensity from the Gators with splashed threes time and again, and downed Florida, 77-72, in the semifinals of the AdvoCare Invitational.
Josh Perkins had 18 points on nine shots to lead the Zags, but Silas Melson, Johnathan Williams, and Nigel Williams-Goss all hit at least four shots each for Gonzaga, which got just 10 combined points from seven-footers Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins.
Florida’s answer? Decent efficiency from Devin Robinson (a career-high 18 points on 13 shots, including the Gators’ first nine), John Egbunu (12 points on eight shots), and Canyon Barry (12 on nine), and not very much from anyone else.
KeVaughn Allen needed 17 shots to accrue just 15 points. Kasey Hill’s eight points came almost entirely at the line — yes, really — during a 1-for-4 performance, and though he had seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals, he also had two harmful turnovers late. Barry had all but two of the mere 14 bench points for the Gators, as Chris Chiozza was blanked.
Florida shot under 37 percent from the field, and sank just two of 19 threes. Gonzaga had twice as many turnovers, 16 to eight, and Florida captured 16 offensive rebounds, but those extra opportunities to score didn’t translate to points — except, amazingly, at the free-throw line, where the Gators went 22-for-24.
That steadiness at the stripe was about all the Gators had on offense, and it wasn’t enough on a night when their foes had far more.
Next up for the Gators is a Sunday date with old foe Miami in the third-place game of the Invitational, another measuring stick for Florida in a non-conference gauntlet.