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TCU 55, Florida 50: Gators’ furious rally falls short after somnolent start

Florida fought all the way back from a huge hole. But the Gators could never quite get on top of the Horned Frogs.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe, if Florida hadn’t started so slowly that TCU got an 18-3 lead, or if Florida hadn’t seen KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke combine to hit just three threes after making a combined 15 days prior, or if Jalen Hudson had been able to give the Gators anything at all late in the game, Florida would not have lost Saturday’s game to TCU.

But all of those things happened.

And so Florida did lose the game, 55-50, after rallying all the way back from an early 16-point deficit to tie the game in the second half.

Allen led the Gators with 11 points, but no one joined him in double figures, with five Gators scoring between six and nine points. The shooting on this afternoon was not so nice: Only Kevarrius Hayes, who was 4-for-6 from the field, made even half of his shots, and only Hayes averaged better than a point per shot on the day.

Allen and Locke were a combined 3-for-13 from three after scalding Texas A&M on Tuesday, and scored a combined 20 points on 22 shots. Hudson, though, was worse: He was 2-for-10 and mustered just six points, failing to score in double figures despite taking at least seven shots for the ninth time this year. And Hudson being inserted for Keyontae Johnson, who had nine points and eight rebounds and helped spark a 14-2 run out of halftime by the Gators, seemed to disrupt their rhythm: Johnson’s third foul sent him to the bench with the game tied at 34, and TCU capitalized with a 10-2 run.

Florida fought hard to close that lead, ultimately trailing by four entering the final four minutes of play and by three with under a minute to go, but the Gators also never again had the ball with a chance to take the lead. And even with heroic work from Hayes as a shot-blocker — he passed Joakim Noah for third on Florida’s career list by tallying five rejections — and very good work by the Florida defense, which forced 17 turnovers and kept the Horned Frogs to 36 percent shooting from the field and holding TCU players not named Kouat Noi (22 points) or Desmond Bane (17 points) to a combined 16 points, an inability to score early and to score enough late doomed the Gators in Fort Worth.

Increasingly, it looks like that lack of timely offensive punch is going to doom this Florida season to a trajectory below its ceiling. Fight as they might to bend that arc skyward, these Gators just might not have the firepower to consistently win tough games.