Without Colin Castleton, the Florida Gators were going to need a big day from Tyree Appleby to come into Mizzou Arena and leave victorious, and he did just that.
Although Appleby put the dagger into Missouri fans’ hearts with the last 8 Florida points of a 66-65 victory — the Tigers’ second consecutive one-point home loss — he was an absolute non factor in the first half due to foul trouble.
The Gators star guard spent most of the half grabbing some pine next to head coach Mike White, thanks to two early fouls inside of five minutes. This meant the other Gators would need to step up in the absence of their two best players, and they did.
The Gators shot 8-13 in the first half from beyond the arc, and Myreon Jones, a 29% 3-point shooter this year, was 5-6 himself. However, for all their success from deep, some lackluster shooting inside the arc allowed Mizzou to hang around.
The Tigers took the opposite approach of the Gators and did most of their work from 2-point range. However, one three each from Kaleb Brown (the first of his college career) and Boogie Coleman gave the Tigers a big boost going into half as they cut the Florida lead from eight to just two.
The Tigers kept that momentum rolling into the second half, and two DaJuan Gordon threes early in the period gave Missouri their first lead, and while Missouri kept scoring, Florida continued to falter.
The Gators went scoreless for 7:08 and Missouri went on a 15-3 run. At its peak, the Missouri lead stretched out to 9 points with 8 minutes to play, but that was before the Tyree Appleby show started.
With just 3 points up to this point in the game, Appleby flipped the switch to score 14 points in the final 8 minutes. For context, Missouri as a team only scored 13 points in the same timeframe.
“We didn’t do a very good job on Appleby,” Cuonzo Martin said of Appleby’s late game heroics. “He’s a very talented basketball player, but 90% of his action is driving the ball right. He got a lot of production driving the ball right and that can’t happen.”
Led by Appleby, Florida slowly chipped away the Missouri lead, eventually cutting it down to just 1, but a Ronnie DeGray III layup made it a three point game with 34 seconds left, and it seemed like if the Tigers could make some free throws they’d likely hold onto the game.
However, a mental lapse by Gordon just two seconds into the shot clock resulted in a foul 85 feet from the basket that sent Appleby to the line in the double bonus with no change in time.
On the next Missouri possession, which eerily resembled Auburn’s final possession when Missouri and Auburn faced off last week, Florida fouled. Coleman missed the front end, and Florida had the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Needing one final bucket, there was only one man Florida was going to turn to, Tyree Appleby. On the drive, he was fouled by Gordon, and Appleby sank both free throws to make him 10-10 from the charity stripe.
“That’s their best player, they depend on him to score, and that’s what he did,” DeGray said in the post game. “Collectively, we just didn’t get a stop.”
With 8 seconds left, the Tigers got one more chance to win the game, but it wasn’t in the cards. Amari Davis’ initial drive was blocked out of bounds despite it looking like he had an easy dump off pass, and on the ensuing inbound, Coleman got a subpar look on the following out of bounds, but his fadeaway corner three didn’t even hit iron, and the Tigers fell by one.
Despite the string of close losses the Tigers have experienced recently, they’re still trying to keep their spirits high. “It happens,” Kobe Brown said after the game. “We have got to stay the course, keep doing what we are doing, and keep working hard, and it’ll pay off. Hard work always pays off.”