Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Friday, May 20, 2022

Fifteen seconds of silence will be followed by three days of disappointment.

Trailing by 3 with eight seconds remaining, UF forward Dan Werner was called for an offensive foul that all but ended the Gators' chances.

Tennessee failed to inbound the ball cleanly, and a conference took place.

You could hear a pin drop as the referees met near the baseline, where a crowd of 12,046 fans, who were far from silent all night, held their breaths.

The group gave UF the ball and set up one final gasp.

Guard Nick Calathes misfired on a decent look from beyond the arc, and the Gators, whose hearts and passion remained on the floor, slumped home after an 89-86 loss.

The crowd stood as the despondent Gators (21-9, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) headed toward the locker room, cheering a loss on a night when doing so somehow made sense.

Calathes didn't agree. After the game, the troubled guard had nothing to smile about.

"We're not proud of a moral victory," he said. "We lost."

During the aftermath, UF coach Billy Donovan kicked everyone but the players out of the locker room and failed to show up for his radio interview.

Donovan seemed composed when he addressed the media, and spoke of the loss in terms of an opportunity.

"They could really, really grow from this," Donovan said. "When you have pain and hurt like they do in the locker room, there is a tremendous opportunity to bond. Sometimes the pain and heartache really brings you closer as a team than winning."

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

Donovan said he was proud of his team, which clearly knew how much was at stake. All week they had said the right things. Whether or not they would play like they had everything to lose was the question, and within the first five minutes everyone had their answer.

UF hit its first nine shots. The Gators jumped out to a 55-42 lead at halftime, but couldn't quell the fire of the No. 4 Volunteers (27-3, 13-2 SEC), who were playing for their first outright conference championship in 41 years.

Tennessee came back and surpassed UF with 7:45 left. They would widen the gap to 10, but on this night, with so much in the balance, UF wasn't ready to pack it in.

Pumping his fist, Werner connected from 3-point range as he brought the score to 79-74 with just less than four and a half minutes remaining.

Calathes then nailed a 3-pointer of his own and the Gators were within 2, with the crowd on their backs.

With 1:48 remaining, Calathes hit another 3-pointer, and the score was tied.

The Gators failed to block out on a missed free throw from JaJuan Smith, and Tyler Smith converted an easy basket to take a 2-point lead, which may have made the difference in the game.

Marreese Speights had a chance to tie the score from the charity stripe, but hit just one. Soon the theatrics would follow, and the Gators would come up short.

"I had a good look," Calathes said of his potentially game-tying 3-pointer. "But I didn't knock it down."

The Gators have little time to bond and pull things together as Kentucky looms ahead.

UF heads to Lexington this Sunday and likely has one final chance to keep their hopes of playing in March Madness alive.

"We don't talk about the NCAA Tournament," Donovan said. "We don't talk about the bubble. They're too young to see what you're all talking about."

Tennessee 89

Player Min. Pts. Reb. Ast.

Lofton, C. 35 21 1 0

Smith, T. 32 13 8 3

Smith, J. 31 23 1 0

Chism, W. 28 12 2 1

Smith, R. 22 0 2 2

Howell, J. 18 5 1 1

Prince, J. 15 10 3 2

Crews, D. 13 3 3 0

Williams, B. 4 2 0 0

Tabb, J. 2 0 0 0

UF 86

Player Min. Pts. Reb. Ast.

Calathes, N. 35 24 3 9

Werner, D. 32 16 4 5

Hodge, W. 32 16 2 3

Lucas, J. 32 3 1 1

Speights, M. 31 21 7 1

Parsons, C. 19 4 3 3

Tyus, A. 9 0 0 0

Mitchell, J. 8 2 1 0

Allen, A. 2 0 0 0

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2022 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.