Turns out losing Marreese Speights didn't help Florida's defense much. Shock of shocks, that.
The Fighting Citrus Fruit repeatedly eviscerated UF's, whether the Gators played man-to-man or a particularly laughable zone. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Syracuse. Jonny Flynn is missing an "h" but not much else; he's a hell of a player. So is Paul Harris. Harris scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds; Flynn scored 18 on five of seven shooting. The rather beastly Arinze Onuaku scored 13 and picked up 12 rebounds. Florida had no answer for him; he absolutely abused the Gators inside.
UF also failed to contain Syracuse sharp-shooter Andy Rautins in the first half; he was five of nine from behind the arc, though he was silent as a mausoleum in the second half.
It was actually a sharp, fun, well-played game. Syracuse's biggest lead was 10 points and they didn't hold that for very long. But the Orange basically won the game when they were able to open up a seven or eight point lead in the second half. The Gators simply couldn't stop Syracuse on consecutive possessions. Mathematics is a cruel mistress; if you fall behind by a couple possessions and can't stop the other guy from scoring, it's pretty darn hard to win.
With 19:02 left in the game, Eric Devendorf hit a three-pointer to make the score 46-40. From that point on the Gators never pulled within three.
It wasn't a complete disaster. Nick Calathes was his usual well-rounded self, scoring 17 on better than 50 percent shooting, dishing seven assists and recording three steals. Freshman guard and mighty mite Erving Walker looked pretty good against some solid competition; he scored 13 points coming off the bench and knocked down three shots from beyond the arc.
The true revelation, however, was Alex Tyus, who scored 24 points on 11 of 14 shooting. It was, by a wide margin, the best game of his college career. A lot of those points came on relatively uncontested put-backs, but he also drained several mid-range jumpshots and showed impressive touch around the basket.
But even Tyus struggled defensively. He only picked up four rebounds and did nothing to discourage Onuaku or Harris in the paint. The Gators didn't prove that they could stop or even contain effective low-post scorers. That's going to be a problem all year.
With the loss, UF fell to 3-1. Tomorrow they'll face the loser of tonight's Kansas/Washington match-up in the consolation game of this little mini-tournament. Beating either one of those teams would keep the Kansas City excursion from being a complete waste. Banking a win against a relatively decent team like Washington or Kansas would be helpful come tournament time, especially considering the quality of the SEC.
(Programming note: I obviously don't plan on recapping every basketball game. There are too many and I don't get to watch most of them. Important, nationally televised games will warrant an entry)