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Friday, August 12, 2022

Florida lays tournament hopes to rest in overtime loss to Texas A&M

The Gators got bounced from the SEC Tournament Thursday on final possession of the game

<p>Freshman guard Kowacie Reeves during a Feb. 27 matchup with Auburn. Reeves propelled the Gators into overtime Thursday with a career-high 21 points. </p>

Freshman guard Kowacie Reeves during a Feb. 27 matchup with Auburn. Reeves propelled the Gators into overtime Thursday with a career-high 21 points.

Seven points. 37 seconds. 

Kowacie Reeves had no intention of letting Florida’s tournament chances slip away without a fight, and put on an incredible late-game performance in the process.

The freshman guard converted two clutch 3-pointers, along with an and-1 free throw, to extend the game past regulation. Despite Reeve’s career-high 21 points, the Gators once again fell just short against the Aggies.  

“I love [Reeves] as a teammate because he comes in with the right attitude every day,” senior Colin Castleton said. “That’s something I’ve never seen from somebody so young, I wish I had that when I was his age.”

Florida (19-13, 9-9) fell to Texas A&M (21-11, 9-9) 83-80 Thursday in a game with huge tournament implications. Both teams entered the SEC Tournament matchup teetering on the edge of the Selection Sunday bubble. 

Florida and the Aggies began the opening stretch on opposite sides of the offensive spectrum.

Texas A&M made six of its first seven attempts, including a perfect 3-3 from deep range while the Gators made just two. UF took eight shots from the 3-point line before sophomore Niels Lane found the bottom of the net with 2:01 to play in the first half. 

The Gators began to settle in, embarking on a 8-0 run, but still found themselves struggling to keep the game within single digits. Florida’s effort ramped up defensively in the final five minutes of the first half, forcing multiple shot-clock violations. 

Graduate transfer Brandon McKissic was a vocal presence during the stretch. The 6-foot-five-inch guard desperately attempted to keep his squad’s hopes alive in his first, and ultimately final, SEC tournament. McKissic ended the game, mustering just seven points on 2-7 shooting. 

Despite UF’s sloppy play early on, the Gators were down just eight, 33-25 at the first half’s close. 

Lane led the Gators in scoring at halftime, recording 10 points on perfect 4-4 shooting. The Freehold, New Jersey, native finished with a career-high 16 points in 22 minutes. 

“The fact that the ball was going in the basket for me in the first half definitely gave me a boost of confidence on the offensive and defensive end,” Lane said. “Me having a big game offensively today was a help on both sides.”

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Florida’s struggles lingered in the second half, opening the final period 0-6 from deep and shot just 14-30 in the second half. Texas A&M got nearly everything they wanted on the offensive end, scoring on over 50% of possessions in the game. 

Just over a minute into the second half, Aggies’ guard Quenton Jackson threw down an alley-oop jam assisted by Tyrece Radford following a Myreon Jones turnover. Jackson finished over forward Phlandrous Fleming for Texas A&M’s second bucket of the half. 

The sequence would serve as an omen of the half to come for both groups. 

Helplessness struck Florida as it tried to dice into the Aggies’ lead, but shots refused to fall. The Gators’ tournament chances became increasingly bleak as time ticked on. With just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest, Florida trailed by a game-high fourteen points. 

Right as the game seemed all but over, the Gators held the Aggies scoreless over five minutes and scored six unanswered points in just 18 seconds. Florida brought the lead down to just one, and eventually tied the game at 70 with Reeve’s heroics. 

Texas A&M inbounded the ball with 17 seconds remaining as overtime loomed. Aggies Guard Tyrece Radford drove to the basket for what could’ve been the game winning shot. The ball careened off the side of the rim and the Amalie Arena crowd was awarded with free basketball. 

Reeves continued to shine in overtime. 

The freshman out of Macon, Georgia, finished an and-1 basket to give Florida its first lead of the game. The Aggies responded with a 3-point play of their own to bring the game back even. 

Neither team gave the other an inch in extra time.

As overtime came to a close, Texas A&M again had possession with the score tied and 14 seconds remaining. Radford passed up his second chance at game-winner and delegated the last shot to teammate Hassan Diarra. The guard spotted up for the win.

Bang.

The Gators put up one more catch-and-shoot prayer to no avail. 

As Thursday’s contest ended, so did Florida’s chances at hearing its name announced on Selection Sunday. Now, Florida’s only chance at continuing postseason play will be the National Invitational Tournament, which begins  March 15. 

“A two hour microcosm of the season,” head coach Mike White said. “Ups, downs… Leave everything out on the floor and come up just a little bit short. We’ve had four or five [games] where we got the other end and we came out on the right side. Unfortunately, we’ve come out on the wrong side too many times.”

The NIT Bracket will be revealed Sunday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. 

Contact Jackson Castellano at jcastellano@alligator.org. Find him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.

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