Trailing by two with less than a minute remaining in the game, KeVaughn Allen drove down the court. The junior guard galloped to the right side of the lane, throwing up a layup that was tightly contested by a Loyola-Chicago defender.

The shot attempt missed its mark, but center Kevarrius Hayes tapped the ball in to tie the game.

Or not.

A referee’s whistle rang throughout the O'Connell Center, calling the bucket no good due to offensive interference.

In No. 5 Florida’s 65-59 defeat to Loyola-Chicago, the Gators struggled to score and defend at a high level throughout the game, amounting to its third straight loss.

“We didn’t talk, we didn’t communicate,” forward Keith Stone said. “We just didn’t have energy.”

After a tough loss to Florida State two nights prior, coach Mike White decided to alter the starting lineup. Freshman guard Deaundrae Ballard made his first career start, while guards Allen and Jalen Hudson came off the bench for the first time this season.

Despite the lineup shift, the Gators couldn’t find their rhythm on offense. Seven players scored at least seven points, but none had over nine.

Florida heavily relied on the three-pointer throughout its first six games, but struggled from deep on Wednesday night, shooting 2-for-19 from behind the arc.

While the Ramblers’ defense played a role in the missed jumpers, Florida also failed to convert its fair share of open shots.

“They had some good looks,” Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser said. “So we’re just fortunate that that didn’t get going on us.”

Meanwhile, the Ramblers scored with ease. They took as much as a 13-point lead throughout the opening half, relying on senior forward Aundre Jackson, who poured in 13 first-half points.

Although Florida ended the frame on a 17-7 run, its offensive and defensive woes reappeared after halftime.

Florida shot 34.4 percent in the second half while giving up 54.5 percent shooting to the Ramblers.

“I’ve done a very poor job with this team defensively,” White said. “It starts with me. We are not a very good defensive team. We’re not very tough, and that starts with me.”

Down 61-57, senior guard Chris Chiozza bullied his way inside for a layup to cut the lead to two. Despite earning a few more chances, mistakes marred the Gators, and they failed to score another point on the night.

Four Rambler free throws kept the game out of reach for Florida, which dropped its second game to a team outside the AP top 25.

“This is as low as we can get,” Hudson said. “We gotta change everything that we’re doing and go back to the basics.”

Contact Skyler Lebron at slebron@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @SkylerLebron.

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