Gators squander 11-point lead, lose to 15th-seed Oral Roberts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 21: Florida plays Oral Roberts in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) (Trevor Brown Jr, 2021 NCAA Photos)

The up and down basketball season for the Florida Gators ended on a harsh down note.

Florida led by 11 points, but couldn’t hold the lead and lost to 15th seeded Oral Roberts 81-78.

Florid’s inability to stop two ORU stars--Kevin Obanor, who scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Max Abmas, who finished with 26 points and seven assists--and their 20 turnovers sunk what was a golden opportunity to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017. Instead, the Gators season is over.

The rollercoaster nature of the season included losing the team’s best player, Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed on the floor during Florida’s game against rival Florida State in December. Johnson was hospitalized but recovered. However, he never returned to the court. The highlight for the team may have come in a victory over then-6th ranked West Virginia. It’s a win that means little after Sunday’s loss to Oral Roberts.

“Hard-fought game. Very, very emotional season for these. guys,” Gators head coach Mike White said. “I really would have liked to have seen Keytonae and his teammates have the opportunity to celebrate and go to the Sweet 16 in another week and see what happens from there. Unfortunately, these guys are crushed. And that’s it for this year’s Gators.”

Tre Mann led the Gators with 19 points while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out four assists. He finished the season averaging 16 points per game.

“It was everything that we saw. Everything that Coach (White) told us was going to happen. It happened,” Mann said. “You don’t really realize it until you’re doing it. I mean, you could realize it, but you don’t know how good they are until you actually play them. They move the ball very well. They have two elite scorers on their team and everybody is able to knock down shots. When you’re playing a team like that, it’s hard to defend and they did a good job today.”