The 2012-13 college basketball season has found its latest top-five victim. Despite leading for nearly the entire contest, the No. 5 Florida Gators fell to the Missouri Tigers, 63-60, to put a halt to their three-game winning streak.
Laurence Bowers led the charge for the upstart Tigers. The senior star finished with a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds. His last two points—a jumper with 1:19 remaining in the second half—ultimately proved to be the game-winning basket.
Bowers' performance Tuesday night ended an uncharacteristic cold streak for the fifth-year player. He had scored over 10 points just once in the past four games, and shot just 1-of-10 in Missouri's loss to Arkansas on Saturday. ESPN's Dana O'Neil noticed that Bowers was finally back to his normal self against Florida:
Laurence Bowers looks like Laurence Bowers tonight— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) February 20, 2013
Though they ultimately wound up losing, the Gators were given plenty of chances to put the game away. They led by as many as 13 points midway through the second half, but struggled with poor shot selection throughout the night.
Given an opportunity to take the lead in the final minute down 61-60, Florida settled for a contested three-pointer from guard Kenny Boynton.
As Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis notes, that shot was indicative of a night's worth of frustrating shot selection by the Gators:
Florida has been jacking threes all night. Why would anyone be surprised at that shot?— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 20, 2013
It was a contest that saw Florida go completely out of its comfort zone. Heading into Tuesday night's action, the Gators ranked just 60th in the nation in three-point shots attempted.
Facing a stellar Missouri defense, Florida took a whopping 33 of its 54 field goals from beyond the arc, making just 10.
The Gators' love of the three-ball rendered star center Patric Young completely ineffective, as he scored just two points while being phased out of the offense.
Missouri did not fare much better shooting the ball overall, knocking down just five of its 22 three-pointers, but knocked down clutch free-throws down the stretch. The Tigers nailed 12-of-15 from the charity stripe, whereas Florida was able to make only half of its 12 attempts.
Tuesday's result is obviously critical to both sides' tournament hopes. The Gators were desperately trying to claw their way into a No. 1 seed conversation, and losing to an unranked team at this late juncture may rule that possibility out.
Meanwhile, Missouri was a bubble team without a statement win. Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde thinks the Tigers' victory over Florida may be enough to lock them into the field of 68:
Tigers. Ticket punchedto Dance. That wraps it up. Excellent win.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 20, 2013
Whether Frank Haith's team is a lock or not is up for the committee to decide. But based on their performance on Tuesday, one has a hard time seeing how you could keep this resilient Tigers team out of the Big Dance.