From its 26-game winning streak to its undefeated Southeastern Conference record, Florida has knocked down barriers and accomplished feats no other team has ever done.
But now, the Gators biggest challenge comes just 15 feet from the basket.
During the SEC Tournament, Florida made just 27 of 54 free-throw attempts, including its worst performance of the year Sunday when it went 7 of 17 from the charity stripe.
“There’s been numerous games where we come down the stretch of games and gone 10 for 11, we’ve made 16 out of 18,” coach Billy Donovan. “There’s been some good stretches. Certainly that three-game stretch from us was not a great stretch for us at all. That would be an area we’ve got to get better.”
Against Auburn and Arkansas, two of Florida’s tightest games during the regular season, the Gators’ performance at the line was what secured them victory.
In those two regular-season matchups, UF sunk 48 of 62 free throws and 14 of 18 during each game’s last two minutes.
However, when Florida had the chance to ice its championship against Kentucky on Sunday, neither Scottie Wilbekin nor Dorian Finney-Smith could knock down a free throw.
The Gators’ 41.2 efficiency from the line on Sunday, which was the worst of the year, was actually lower than the team’s three-point shooting percentage against the Wildcats (42.1).
“Honestly I don’t think this was our best in terms of handling the close game,” senior Patric Young said.
But it wasn’t just Florida’s struggles at the line that let Kentucky back into the game.
The Gators fouled the Wildcats a season-high 22 times. And as a result, UK visited the line 26 times, which was the second-highest amount by a Florida opponent this season.
Donovan said he was most frustrated by his bench, which committed half of the squad’s fouls despite having less time on the court than the starters.
Finney-Smith, the SEC Sixth Man of the Year, had four fouls Sunday, fouled out Saturday against Tennessee and committed two more Friday against Missouri.
“It was real frustrating,” the redshirt sophomore said after having to leave the Tennessee game with just more than four minutes on the clock.
But it’s not just Finney-Smith. Donovan said the discipline by the bench players has not been up to par and it showed during the Gators’ run during the conference tournament.
“We fouled too much,” Donovan said. “Kasey Hill and DeVon Walker fouled way too much in the game. DeVon Walker picks up a foul, Kentucky’s shooting one-and-one, he just fouls the guy 40 feet from the basket for no reason. Kasey Hill fouls a guy all the way up the floor, puts himself in harm’s way. Their defensive discipline, their defensive intensity, how hard they compete and play, would be an area that continually needs to be raised.”
Follow Jonathan Czupryn on Twitter @jczupryn