GAINESVILLE -- No. 8 Florida survived an overtime scare against Louisiana-Monroe, squeaking past the Warhawks 61-56 Friday night in the O’Connell Center.
Led by walk-on forward Jacob “Captain” Kurtz and junior sharpshooter Michael Frazier II, the shorthanded Gators rallied in overtime after squandering an 8-point lead with just over two minutes left in regulation.
ULM drilled back-to-back 3-pointers with under a minute left in regulation, including Nick Coppola’s 28-foot bomb to tie the game at 51-51 with 16 seconds remaining. Coppola finished with 11 points, and forward Tylor Ongwae led ULM with 19 points and eight rebounds.
Despite the Florida's second straight collapse late, the Gators managed to regroup in overtime, staving off the upset by bleeding the game away at the charity stripe (8-of-12 in OT).
“There’s going to be some really painful moments. It is part of them getting scarred,” UF coach Billy Donovan said.
“They have no concept in what goes into winning. They have to take ownership in what that looks like each and every day.”
Florida won an ugly, sloppy contest, suiting up just six scholarship players and shooting a ghastly 33 percent from the field.
The Gators (2-1) played without forward Dorian Finney-Smith (hand fracture), forward Alex Murphy (ineligible) and guard Eli Carter (foot) -- UF’s leading scorer at 14.5 points a game -- and they struggled to generate consistent shots without their usual scoring punch.
Frazier, who hurt his ankle late in the second half, led all scorers with 21 points -- 16 after halftime.
“I knew we were going to have struggling scoring tonight,” Donovan said.
“You take our two leading scorers off the floor and we’re going to be in trouble.”
Meanwhile, Kurtz was UF’s superglue guy, as the walk-on dominated the glass (13 rebounds) and chipped in a team-high three assists and six points, too. The 6-foot-6 forward had a key assist to center Jon Horford in overtime (UF's lone field goal) and drilled a pair of free throws.
“He made a couple great plays. He kept a couple rebounds alive. He gets it,” Donovan said.
“He’s the one guy on the team that really, really gets. He has a clear-cut understanding what goes into winning.”
The Gators trailed 29-27 at halftime, erasing a 12 point deficit with a 10-0 run capped by Chris Chiozza’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. ULM rained 3-pointers (5-of-9) to establish its first-half lead.
But ULM’s wild shots stopped failing after halftime, and Florida grabbed control of the game with a 15-0 run -- spurred by six points from Frazier.
Thanks to poor shot selection and bad defensive rotations, the Gators coughed up their late lead, but with both teams ice cold from the field (a combined 27 percent after halftime) they were able to survive the meltdown thanks to the free throw line.
THIS & THAT
Finney-Smith (injury, academics) will not travel to Florida's Thanksgiving weekend tournament 'Battle 4 Atlantis.' The Gators open play Wednesday against Georgetown. ... Carter will undergo an MRI on Saturday, determining whether he has a Lisfranc injury or a mild foot sprain. ... Sophomore point guard Kasey Hill had another miserable night (5 turnovers, 2-12 from the field) and is now 3-for-21 the last two games. ... Former McDonald's All-American Chris Walker made his season debut after being suspended Florida's first two games. The sophomore played 26 minutes, finishing with four points and six rebounds.
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