But at too many moments, Oklahoma was big, and the Gators came up short.
The Sooners got 18 points from Christian James and outrebounded Florida throughout Thursday’s matchup, then held on late for a 65-60 win over the Gators that relegates the Orange and Blue to the losers’ side of the Battle 4 Atlantis bracket.
Florida had moments of inspired play, erasing deficits with runs midway through the first half and late in the game and spurting out of the locker room to a small lead, but Oklahoma controlled this game almost from tipoff — largely by controlling the glass. The Sooners had 47 rebounds to Florida’s 34, and 15 offensive boards to Florida’s seven, and got a crucial team rebound late on a tough KeVaughn Allen layup that would have shaved the Sooners’ lead to one point in the final seconds of play.
And while James, forwards Rashard Odomes (11 points, three boards) and Jamuni McNeace (11 points, six rebounds, and four blocks), and Oklahoma’s defense were all very good on the day, some of Florida’s issues were self-inflicted. The Gators shot just 39 percent from the floor, as Allen, Jalen Hudson, Andrew Nembhard, and Keith Stone combined for a 12-for-37 performance that netted just 30 points; as a team, Florida went a miserable 3-for-11 from the free throw line despite the Gators’ shots working well enough to drain 11 threes.
The unquestioned bright spot for Florida was sophomore forward Dontay Bassett, whose 14 points were a career high and fueled by the first two threes of his collegiate career. But Bassett also had three fouls, and could not stay on the floor in a game in which Florida was without Gorjok Gak and Isaiah Stokes and got little from Kevarrius Hayes, exacerbating the Gators’ frontcourt woes.
And now Florida will move on to the wrong side of the bracket in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and must hope for unexpected failures from good teams to glean the maximum schedule strength benefits from this three-day stint in the Bahamas.
Of course, if Florida plays like it did on this Wednesday afternoon all year, those benefits won’t matter much for this team.