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Gators holds on despite late surge by Aggies

3129 days ago
Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has been the Southeastern Conference's worst free-throw shooting team all season.

It's cost the Gators several games. So this was nothing new.

It was, however, nearly a new low.

Dorian Finney-Smith scored 12 points before fouling out in the closing minutes, and Florida held on to beat Texas A&M 65-62 Tuesday night despite more free-throw woes.

The Gators (15-15, 8-9 Southeastern Conference) led by 14 with 1:58 to play, but missed 9 of 14 from the charity stripe before Eli Carter and Kasey Hill closed it out.

"It's happened to our team a lot this season: we have these mental lapses," said coach Billy Donovan, whose team finished 20 of 38 from the free-throw line.

Carter made a pair of free throws with 13.4 seconds remaining, and Hill sank an even bigger one that put Florida up 66-62 with 6.3 seconds to play.

A&M's Antwan Space missed a 3-pointer on the final possession with Florida playing not to foul.

The Gators won their second straight after losing six of seven and improved their chances of making the NIT. The Aggies (20-9, 11-6) had been looking to strengthen their NCAA Tournament resume, but instead lost for second time in three games.

Alex Caruso led Texas A&M with 20 points. Jalen Jones added 15 points and nine rebounds. Kourtney Roberson added 11 points, eight boards and four assists, and leading scorer Danuel House was scoreless for the first time this season.

"I thought Florida's defense was tremendous," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "They did a good job with Danuel House. It threw us out of our game. ... They doubled him and they were aggressive. They didn't leave him."

The Aggies scored the game's first 10 points, but went cold from there. Florida evened it midway through the first and took control with a 14-0 run in the second.

Alex Murphy and Devin Robinson came up big in the spurt.

Murphy scored seven consecutive points, hitting a 3-pointer, making two free throws and then throwing down a dunk on a fast break. Murphy's up-and-under layup -- which was sandwiched between Robinson's three-point play and 3-pointer -- was even more impressive.

Murphy finished with nine points. Robinson had 10. Carter chipped in 11, and Chris Chiozza had 10. Chiozza, though, was 4 for 12 from the free-throw line, missing most of his in crunch time.

"Obviously we didn't make the amount of free throws we wanted to," Murphy said. "That's something we have to improve on, free-throw shooting. You can't win at this level like that. Obviously, we got lucky and had a lead tonight, and that helped us down the stretch. In a close game, 20 for 38 is not any good."

But Florida had a big enough lead to make them somewhat meaningless.

The Gators played their seventh consecutive game without leading scorer Michael Frazier II. The junior guard badly sprained his right ankle against Kentucky last month and is having significant pain while starting, stopping and cutting.

Making Florida even thinner against the Aggies, starting forward Jacob Kurtz -- one of two seniors honored on "Senior Night" -- got poked in the right eye late in the first half and didn't play until after Finney-Smith fouled out.

Kurtz, a former team manager who worked his way into the rotation and eventually the starting lineup, had tears in eyes during the pregame ceremony and again during the national anthem. His eye was nearly swollen shut after the poke.


Texas A&M: House was 0-for-10 shooting. ... The Aggies failed to sweep both meetings this season. ... Fell to 0-3 in Gainesville.

Florida: Made a 3-pointer for the 794th consecutive game, extending a streak that began in January 1992. ... Kurtz and fellow walk-on Lexx Edwards were the only seniors recognized before the game. Center Jon Horford, who transferred from Michigan for his final year of eligibility, opted not to participate.


Texas A&M hosts Alabama on Saturday.

Florida plays at top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday.