Florida began the holiday week with ample opportunities to earn marquee wins. The stacked field at the Battle 4 Atlantis included No. 25 Wisconsin and No. 5 Virginia.
Florida Gators guard Noah Locke let a small grin tug at the side of his lips.
But an opening-round loss to Oklahoma thrust UF into the losers bracket. The Gators had to settle for a win against a marginal Stanford instead of getting a shot against the Badgers.
Tonight’s game against Butler gave Florida a chance for its best win of the young season. But a 61-54 loss to the Bulldogs leaves the team heading home from the Bahamas with an even record.
It was a tale of two halves for Florida (3-3). A 47-percent three-point shooting performance in the first half guided the Gators to a 32-27 halftime lead.
UF’s offense fell apart in the second half, though. It only connected on 29 percent of its shots. Even worse, only one of the Gators’ 12 attempts from downtown fell in the final period.
And it’s not as though the Bulldogs (5-1) shot the lights out. They ended the game on a 4:35 drought from the field, and UF failed to capitalize. The Gators trailed by single digits throughout that period of play but only hit one of seven shots. The opportunity to take the game at the end was there, but Florida caught an all-too-familiar case of the late-game misses.
True freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard was one of the few bright spots for UF. He converted 3-of-4 tries from beyond the arc. His 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting with seven assists was his best performance of his collegiate career. The former five-star prospect was tabbed as a top-tier passer, but it was widely accepted that his offensive game needed some development.
Sophomore guard Deaundrae Ballard continued to impress off the bench. He had 11 points and has led the team in scoring in three of its six games.
With the Battle 4 Atlantis wrapped up, UF will look to future games against West Virginia and Michigan State to earn a resume-bolstering non-conference win.
Florida will also have another shot at Butler before the New Year. The Bulldogs travel to Gainesville on Dec. 29.
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