Who'd have thunk it: BYU plays with swagger, Florida doesn't
The end of Florida’s 12-game NCAA Tournament winning streak might be little more than a footnote to the Gators’ 99-92 double-OT loss to Brigham Young Thursday afternoon, but should it?
The Gators hadn’t lost an NCAA game since falling to Villanova, 76-65, in Nashville in a 2005 second-round game. Eddie Sutton was still coaching at Oklahoma State; Kelvin Sampson was still at Oklahoma. Kevin Durant was a high school senior at Montrose Christian. So in basketball terms, that’s a long time ago.
At the height of that streak Florida had won a second straight NCAA title and seemed on the verge of joining college basketball’s bluebloods. Some of those bluebloods can lose three NBA lottery picks and still make the tournament. But North Carolina’s struggles this year in the post-Tyler Hansbrough era are a reminder of how tough it is to stay on top. Not that Billy Donovan needed one. The Gators have now gone three seasons without a tournament win, and what seems to have also been lost is the Gator basketball identity. Florida played with a swagger that dared opponents to try to run with them. There was no shot too bold or daring. But on Thursday, BYU was the team that played with swagger.
There was a brief stretch of the second half when my colleague Brandon Chatmon observed that Florida players looked like they were ready for the season to be over. If they felt that way, it didn’t last. Florida battled back into the game and at one point seemed to ready to blow BYU out. The Gators were absolutely wearing out BYU on the boards, especially the offense glass. Florida finished with a 45-33 rebounding edge. But with chances to win the game at the end of regulation and the first overtime, the Gators couldn’t squeeze off a good shot.
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