Florida was always going to have issues in a game in which open shots wouldn't fall. The Gators don't defend quite well enough to withstand their shooting woes, don't attack the hoop quite well enough to compensate for a cacophony of clangs. But the way the Gators got eviscerated from the inside out against Texas A&M in a 72-66 SEC Tournament quarterfinal loss on Friday is going to be gutting as Selection Sunday comes and goes without Florida's name being called.
Texas A&M got 15 points from freshman center Tyler Davis, nine more from lanky Tonny Trocha-Morelos, and 44 points in the paint in total to withstand a dogged effort from Kasey Hill (18 points for a second consecutive game) and Florida's defense.
The paint pummelling was the most proximate cause of death for the Gators, but 12 turnovers didn't help. Neither did a no-show from Chris Chiozza, who had three turnovers, one assist, and no points, and whose time running the Gators' offense was far inferior to Hill's on this afternoon. But Kevarrius Hayes also failed to score and got worked by Davis to the point that Schuyler Rimmer came in after a fifth foul for John Egbunu late, and Dorian Finney-Smith, Devin Robinson, and Justin Leon all took more shots than they had points, and lazy passes weren't Chiozza's province alone.
Hill was the lone consistent bright spot, and his sudden improvement as a finisher is a welcome development. Still, he went just 6-for-9 at the free-throw line — and given that neither team led by more than six points at any point, and that Florida rallied for a 61-61 tie before back-to-back layups gave A&M the lead for good, every point could have helped.
Now, a dearth of those points — attended, as ever, by the deafening clang of shots from a team that made just three of its 19 threes — has doomed Florida to the NIT, where the Gators should be a top seed without the home-court advantage usually granted by that status, thanks to the imminent beginning of renovations to the O'Connell Center.
Fittingly, maybe, Florida will spend the end of Mike White's first season away from home — and fighting to get back from the wilderness it's been stuck in for two seasons.