With 7:18 to play in the first half against Oklahoma on Tuesday night in the Jumpman Invitational, the Florida Gators owned a 27-16 lead — an 11-point edge on a tough Sooners squad that had been cold from deep and combatted well inside by the Gators.
But the Gators would score fewer points over the final 28 minutes of the game than they did in the first 12 — and would fall, 62-53, in their last pre-conference clash.
Oklahoma’s scoring came largely from just two sources: Grant Sherfield, shooter extraordinaire, had 22 points, and big man Tanner Groves scrapped and clawed his way to 13. No other Sooner had more than six, a reflection of very good team defense from the Gators all night, though Sherfield sank four threes and three other Oklahoma players netted one.
But while Florida matched Sherfield and Groves with the 22 points it got from Colin Castleton, who did yeoman’s work all night, and 14 more from Trey Bonham, who had 10 in the first half, it got no more than six points from anyone else — and Will Richard’s six came without a three on three-for-10 shooting, while Kowacie Reeves got his five on two-for-eight shooting off the bench, and matched them with five fouls.
The Gators’ sputtering had a lot to do with poor shooting — Florida made two of its 22 threes, and none after the 9:48 mark of the first half, when Reeves banked in a three — and stagnant offense that compounded it. Too often, Castleton’s post-ups served as almost the entirety of Florida’s half-court attack. with Groves defending him well (and getting whistled for frustratingly few fouls in doing so) and the other four Gators only occasionally cutting to scoring positions around their big man.
And while Florida was able to convert defense into offense in the first half, Oklahoma committed just 12 turnovers all night, slowed down the game to its preferred tempo, and forced the Gators to try to beat their stout defense without the advantage of fast breaks — a task the Gators were simply not up to on a night when their shots didn’t fall.
This was, by some margin, Florida’s best defensive performance against a potential NCAA Tournament team this season.
But the Gators squandered that effort with their shooting — and they look as far from the NCAA Tournament in their own right as they have all year.