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Gators had the shots, just didn't make them

Kenny Boynton said it best: "Couldn't ask for anything more."

Boynton and backcourt partner Erving Walker had three late chances to win, take the lead and then tie Florida's Elite 8 matchup with Butler on three-pointers. They missed all three, handing the Bulldogs a 74-71 win and second straight appearance in the Final Four. Obviously a lot happened, and like with any NCAA Tournament game, a ton of factors could have changed the outcome. But those three shots will get the most attention, and I'm in what I can only assume is the minority in thinking the Gators handled them OK. Poor planning and execution, but Florida ended up with open shots and just didn't make them.

-The First Shot

With the game tied and 30 seconds left in regulation, Butler's Matt Howard missed a go-ahead free throw to set up a game-winning attempt. Walker dribbled the clock down to about five seconds, got a screen near the top of the key and threw up a shot from the right wing that just missed to send it to overtime.

A few things here. First, Florida didn't call a timeout, which I don't like at all, but there was a play on. The idea was for Walker to get a screen from Patric Young and either pull up or drive based on what his defender did. Butler's Andrew Smith backed down a bit, but at that point it didn't really matter since Walker had little time to drive. He pulled up from a few feet behind the arc but was open, and even though Walker had yet to hit a shot on the night, we've seen him make those before. There's no one on this team you'd rather have taking that shot than Walker -- I don't care what kind of game he's having.

Going inside wasn't a great option either. Chandler Parsons had zero points after the half, and while Alex Tyus looked good with 14, I'll take Erv anyday. The single best option was center Vernon Macklin, who had 25 points and dominated whenever he was on the floor, but he was on the bench because his poor free-throw-shooting makes him a liability late in games. Perhaps you could call time out, sub Macklin in at the beginning of that possession and get him the ball, but I'll take Big Shot Erv from three ahead of Macklin's knuckleball free throws.

Macklin said after the game that the combination of his four fouls and form from the charity stripe pretty much left Billy Donovan no choice but to sit him out.

-The Second Shot

Then, in overtime, the Gators again had the ball with 30 seconds left. This time they were down 1 and called a timeout, and the result was less of a play than the first time around. Walker got Boynton the ball on the left wing, and he launched a deep three that was just long with 19 seconds to go. Donovan said his only complaint would be that he'd like to see Boynton drive, but he was OK with the shot. So am I.

-The Third Shot

And for the final heave, down 3 with 10 seconds left, Walker came straight down and fired a bomb from straight away that came up short, and Butler wisely chucked it downcourt to pretty much end it. This shot had to be a three, and getting it up quick leaves time for a rebound and second shot if possible. Walker's shot was from pretty far out, but he's made them before. Sink that one and he's a hero who saves his best for the end of games. Miss and it's "Dammit Erv always takes stupid shots!"

That's what this came down to. Two players took three shots they're perfectly capable of making, and they didn't go down. Obviously any strategy that fails is subject to criticism, but the bottom line is that the top scorers on a No. 2 seed had chances to lift their team to the Final Four. They just didn't hit them, and that happens.

Guarantee you that if it ended on a missed turnoaround from Tyus, everyone would be complaining that it should be Walker taking the big shot. Everything gets second-and-third-guessed when it doesn't work out, but I think any of those three situations could have gotten the job done. One of those goes in and it's a different conversation.

All in all, great season and great run for this team. Next year will be very interesting as well since the starting frontcourt is graduating and guards Mike Rosario and Brad Beal join the fold, but what did you think about the way this one ended? Furious about the late-game management or are you on my side? I haven't found anyone who agrees with me yet, so I'd welcome you with open arms.

 

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