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Florida 66, Towson 60: Gators survive tussle with Tigers on another cold night

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Another poor shooting night helped make for another uncomfortably close win for the Gators.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When it came down to it, the Florida Gators had a little more than the Towson Tigers did on Thursday night.

Tied at 60, Florida scored the game’s final six points — on a Kerry Blackshear Jr. turnaround shot in the lane, and two perfect trips to the line by Andrew Nembhard and Scottie Lewis — while forcing some awful shots by the Tigers, and secured a 66-60 victory for their efforts.

That it all came down to that — that the talent-rich Gators were pushed by a Towson team that hasn’t really come close to making the NCAA Tournament in years — might be the takeaway from the game, though.

Florida’s plan of feeding Blackshear was openly discussed all week, and it worked out — sort of. He posted his third double-double in as many Florida games, scoring 13 points and capturing 13 rebounds — but he needed 14 shots to get those points, had just one assist, and ran into foul trouble in the second half, needing to be benched for about five minutes after the under-eight timeout.

Hopes for Florida finding its stroke from distance, too, were not answered well by this night’s performance. Scottie Lewis (15 points) and Keyontae Johnson (eight) each made two of four triples, but no other Gator had more than one, with the rest combining to make three of 14 shots from behind the line. (The makes were big, to be fair, with Noah Locke and Tre Mann each hitting important threes in the second half.)

And any visions of a radically different team reimagined and reinvigorated by a loss to Florida State were dimmed early, as Towson brought intensity commensurate to the Gators’ own and refused to go away.

But Florida “won” this game decisively in basically every respect — rebounding percentages, turnover rates, assist distribution (thanks to Nembhard’s nine) — apart from shooting percentage, with Towson shooting better from the field and from the line and about the same from three. A couple more makes here or there, and Florida probably opens up a lead larger than the final margin, or puts together an uninterrupted run that puts a bit of frustration into the Tigers.

Those makes didn’t happen, though. They haven’t, for this team.

That Florida has been able to win two games and not be completely destroyed in a third is a sign that this team doesn’t need great shooting to be decent, at least.

And if the regression to the mean that should come as Florida’s shooters make the open threes they’re currently missing does eventually come, there’s a foundation to build on.

But making shots is simply something this team does not do well right now. And that allowed Towson to take its shot at taking down these Gators on this night.

Until — or unless — that changes, Florida’s going to be very vulnerable.