As Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance’s second free-throw attempt bounced off the rim, guard Joe Toye sprinted into position, jumped up and brought down the rebound. With 2:04 left in the game and down by only one point, the Commodores had another chance to take the lead.
Nearly 11 seconds later, that second chance turned into an easy layup from the top of the key, as LaChance blew by UF guard Chris Chiozza and drove to the basket uncontested.
In the final 10 minutes of Florida’s 71-68 loss Saturday against Vanderbilt (11-16, 5-9 SEC), the Gators looked like a different team than at the beginning of the game.
“First half, I thought we guarded at a really high level,” UF coach Mike White said. “We were in a position to potentially steal one.”
It’s something White has been trying to fix all season — maintaining intensity throughout the game.
For the most part this season, the Gators have looked good in the first half, doing what their coach expects of them. But as the second half of those games approached the midway point, the other team typically creeps back into the game.
And it usually starts with the Gators’ defense.
On Saturday, LaChance, who was limited to just six points in the first half, continuously found a way to get by Chiozza in the second, amassing 15 points in the frame.
In the last seven minutes, LaChance made two three-pointers, 3-of-4 free throws and a crucial layup with just under two minutes left, leaving White and the Gators with no answer for the senior guard.
“He’s really good, and we can’t allow those backoff threes that he shoots,” White said. “We were trying to make him bounce the basketball.”
The next thing to go is Florida’s offense. Down the stretch, the Gators struggle to record a basket when needed.
In the last seven minutes against the Commodores, UF shot 4 of 12 from the field, missing two last-second three-pointers in the process.
Narrowing it down, after LaChance took the lead, Florida missed four shots that would’ve either taken the lead or tied the game, like guard Egor Koulechov’s missed jump shot or guard Jalen Hudson’s layup that bounced off the rim.
“If you’re gonna steal one on the road,” White said, “you got to make a layup.”
Florida’s inconsistency has plagued it this season, something it will need to sort out before the season ends. In the final 10 minutes, the Gators play like a different team.
With tough matchups against Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky coming up, they’ll need to figure out how to close out games.
“It’s not puzzling because it’s who we are,” White said. “The only thing consistent about this team is our inconsistency.”