In the trilogy known as Butler versus Florida, the Bulldogs took down the Gators 74-71 in overtime to advance to its second consecutive Final Four.
Florida has no one to blame but themselves for the loss. Fans would assume the Gators would have learned their lesson after blowing a 10-point lead in the first half against BYU.
The Gators blew a 10-point lead in the first half and an 11-point lead with 9:25 remaining in the game.
Senior forward Chandler Parsons and junior guard Erving Walker picked the wrong day to have their worst games.
Parsons, who didn’t shoot well against BYU, was lousy against the Bulldogs. He finished with five points on 2-for-9 from the field and seven rebounds.
Walker was just as bad as Parsons. He scored eight points on 1-for-10 from the field (1-for-7 from three-point range) and four assists.
One question comes to mind following Walker’s abysmal performance. Why in the world would Walker take the potential game-winning shot in regulation and the game-tying three in overtime?
I’ve been replaying the sequence in my mind. Florida has the ball with a 60-60 tie, 30 seconds left in the game and the shot clock turned off.
The diminutive guard was already 0-for-7 from the field when he hoisted up the three at the end of regulation.
Why didn’t Donovan call a timeout to put redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin in the game?
I really started to criticize Donovan at this point in the game.
Actually, senior forward Matt Howard was at the free-throw line for Butler on the previous possession. Donovan should have put him in during Howard’s visit to the charity stripe.
I understand Macklin had four fouls, but he didn’t pick up a single offensive foul in the game.
Surprisingly, he was an unstoppable force inside. Macklin finished with a career-high 25 points on 11-for-14 from the field.
If I’m in Donovan’s shoes, I’m letting Walker milk the clock. I would let Macklin post up with maybe six seconds left and give him the ball with four seconds left.
This move forces Butler to do one of three things:
1. Butler could play Macklin straight up. This is the strategy Butler coach Brad Stevens used throughout the game. Macklin had the hot hand, and Butler had no answers for him.
2. Butler could foul Macklin and put him on the line to shoot two free throws. Although Macklin shot just 45 percent from the foul line this season, he was 3-for-5 from the free-throw line in the game.
If he makes one of two free throws, Florida would lead by one with only two or three seconds in the game. The best the Bulldogs could do is perhaps a half-court heave.
3. Butler could double-team Macklin. As I stated earlier, Butler didn’t double once in the game, and it’s interesting to see if they would have at this point.
If Butler chose to double, Florida could spread the floor and kick it out to an open player such as Boynton for an open shot or Tyus for a midrange jumper.
Instead, Florida allows an ice-cold shooter to take the shot. He was open, but he was off-balance when taking the shot.
Walker stood out on the perimeter dribbling way too long. Personally, I thought he might try to break the defense down to penetrate and kick it out to an open man for a shot or maybe a dunk.
Okay, Donovan learns his lesson at the end of regulation, right? Wrong.
He’s in a similar predicament in overtime.
Butler is clinging to a 72-71 lead with 19 seconds to play. Maybe Donovan would finally give Macklin a touch.
Wrong. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton misses a deep three, and Florida is forced to foul after the possession arrow gives the Bulldogs the ball.
The Gators are down by three with 10 seconds left. Walker, who’s been ice cold the entire game, jacks up a 35-foot three and, of course, misses.
The rebound hits Parsons on the hand, but he doesn’t hold onto the ball because he doesn’t look like he was paying attention.
Boynton tracks down the ball and tries a heave from past half court but misses everything.
Why didn’t Walker drive it inside? Most teams are hesitant to try a block at this point in the game for a fear of a three-point play.
Assuming he makes the layup, Butler’s lead could have been down to one with five or six seconds on the clock.
Butler was shaky from the foul line all game. As a team, the Bulldogs shot only 17-for-27 (63 percent) from the free-throw line.
Perhaps Butler makes one of two, and Walker or Boynton could’ve taken a better shot to win the game.
Overall, the Gators did a good job on Butler offensively.
Junior guard Shelvin Mack finished with 27 points but shot 8-for-20 from the field (4-for-13 from three-point range).
Howard finished 14 points on 5-for-12 from the field and five rebounds.
Senior guard Shawn Vanzant scored seven points on 3-for-9 from the field.
Butler was held to 40 percent shooting from the field and 9-for-33 (27 percent) from three-point range.
One player who hurt the Gators: Khyle Marshall. The freshman forward provided a big boost off the bench with 10 points and seven offensive rebounds.
The Gators got a nice game from senior forward Alex Tyus. In his final game as a Gator, Tyus finished with 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Boynyon scored 17 points on 5-for-9 from the field, four rebounds and three assists.
The Gators needed to show more energy in the game.
Butler picked up 13 offensive rebounds, which led to second chance points. No team should have that many second chances to score.
The most disappointing thing for Florida was the disappearance of the interior scoring.
Donovan is ultimately to blame for the heartbreaking loss. For the second time in as many games, he allowed his team to deviate from the bread and butter in the game: pounding the ball inside.
With an 11-point lead in the second half, Donovan should have told the team to take the ball to the glass.
The Gators needed to break down Butler’s defense. This is the strategy Donovan employed in overtime against BYU.
Boynton drives it to the hoop for a four-foot shot. Walker drives inside and gives it to Tyus for a dunk.
Another reason to criticize Donovan is for keeping Parsons in the game.
For whatever reason, his head wasn’t in the game. Donovan needed to light a fire under him by benching him in favor of either freshman forward Casey Prather or freshman forward Will Yeguete.
To be perfectly honest, neither guy could have played any worse.
Worst-case scenario, Parsons is embarrassed by the fact a freshman is outplaying him and he busts his butt when Donovan subs him back into the game.
Overall, an Elite Eight appearance and a 29-8 record is a solid season for a team who got into the Big Dance by the skin of their teeth last season.
But as a fan, I’ll always wonder what could’ve happened in the Final Four had Florida held on to beat Butler.