Gators fall short against No. 4 Syracuse 72-68
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- With Florida's inside presence compromised from the loss of forward Erik Murphy, the No. 10 Gators had to rely on formidable shooting from the arc if they were going to take down No. 4 Syracuse.
Against any other team -- and perhaps any other 2-3 zone -- that might be enough to get the job done.
Against the length of the Orange (8-0) at the perimeter, though, an outsized Florida (5-2) struggled to knock down shots consistently, especially in the first half, and the Gators fell 72-68 on Friday night.
Florida, which entered the game shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, was 10 of 27 (37 percent) going into halftime.
"They've obviously got great length and great athleticism on the perimeter," Gators head coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought we did a fairly decent job holding our own. They had a size advantage on every position. There wasn't one position on the floor where we had better size and better length than they did."
Kenny Boynton provided the most reliable offensive spark, scoring 22 points and shooting 9 of 16, including 4 3-pointers. Erving Walker added 17 points, going 5 of 9 from behind the arc. Patric Young, who picked up four fouls, had only six points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.
Trailing 31-27 at the break, the Gators hit 6 of 12 from long range in the second, but that four-point cushion proved insurmountable as the Orange matched Florida in the period with 41 points.
Boynton and Walker were the only two Gators to sink 3s, and for the first time this season Florida failed to make at least 11 3s in a game. Florida's only other loss was 81-74 at to No. 2 Ohio State.
"I thought our guards in the first half were put into a bad situation because of Patric being in foul trouble, and them being asked to do too much," Donovan said. "With Erik being hurt and Patric being in foul trouble, there's not a lot of answers we have length-wise."
Murphy suffered a bone bruise in his right knee in practice Nov. 24, and Friday night's game was the third straight he's missed.
Following his team's loss to Syracuse, Donovan said he's optimistic he could get his forward back Wednesday against Arizona, although "that could be pushing it."
On this night, though, Boeheim took center stage.
In a postgame press conference, Boeheim apologized for questioning the motives of the men who accused his longtime assistant of molesting them as minors, saying he reacted out of loyalty.
"I believe I misspoke very badly in my response to the allegations that have been made," said Boeheim, who spoke slowly and paused frequently during a postgame press conference. "I shouldn't have questioned what the accusers expressed or their motives. I am really sorry that I did that, and I regret any harm that I caused."
It was their second game since the firing of longtime associate head coach Bernie Fine, who has been accused by three men -- including two former Syracuse ballboys -- of molesting them as minors.
Fine, who was fired Sunday, has denied the allegations. No charges have been filed.
Against the Gators, Boeheim's players responded again.
Brandon Triche had 20 points and Scoop Jardine finished with 16 and seven assists for the Orange.
Neither team led by more than six points in a first half that was tied six times.
Florida, which entered the game shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and was averaging 12 3-pointers a game, went 3 of 14 from long range in the period -- all by Erving Walker -- while the Orange struggled even more, hitting just 1 of 10.
Syracuse still managed to forge ahead at the break, 31-27, behind seven points each from Kris Joseph, Fab Melo and Triche.
After the Orange built a 39-30 lead early in the second, Boynton led the Gators back with three 3s, the last putting Florida back on top 49-46 with 9:19 to go. Triche tied it for the fourth time in the period 11 seconds later with his first 3 of the game.
Jardine fed Joseph for a one-handed slam to break the tie and Jardine's steal and layup had the Orange up 54-49 with 6:20 to go and the crowd shaking the Carrier Dome.
The roar reached another crescendo when Jardine hit a runner in the lane as the shot clock neared zero, Joseph fed C.J. Fair for a baseline jumper, and Jardine hit a 3 from the left wing in a span of 2:19. That gave Syracuse a 61-53 lead with 3:52 left and the Gators couldn't rally back.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)