Chris Harry’s Blog Harry Fodder
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The freshman with the sweetest of strokes had a chance to score the two biggest points of his Florida career with nobody guarding him Sunday.
The Gators trailed Ole Miss by two in the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game when Michael Frazier stepped to free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity with 3:07 to go.
Frazier, not only an 87-percent free-throw shooter but a team-best 48.5 percent from that 3-point half-circle five feet farther away, bounced the front end for what was the most glaring miss of all in a horrendous 8-for-17 display (47.1 percent) from the line for the Gators.
UF lost 64-61.
“I had a chance,” Frazier said Tuesday. “At that point in the game, it’s about being accountable. Just doing my job. My job was to make two free throws.”
The psyche of a freshman can be a delicate thing, especially after such a traumatic instance.
Gators coach Billy Donovan voiced his concern for Frazier’s fragility like so.
“He’s fine,” Donovan said.
Frazier was huge in helping Florida build its 12-point halftime lead, hitting a trio of 3-pointers. In 20 games against conference opponents his rookie season (he missed game), Frazier went 35-for-66 from the arc (53 percent).
Those deadly numbers are a combination of Frazier’s skill, confidence and mental toughness -- all of which made the Ole Miss miss all the more frustrating.
But in no way devastating.
Frazier’s frame of mind won’t allow it.
No great shooter’s will.
“I can’t explain it,” said Frazier, the All-SEC Freshman selection who averaged six points and 3.3 rebounds per game off the bench. “I feel like I should make every free throw take. The reality is, you can’t make every free throw or shot you take, and another reality is you have to live with the ones you miss. Then you have to learn from them and move on. That’s important for a shooter. You have to have a short memory, put misses behind you and move on to the next play.”
The next one for Frazier will be the first NCAA Tournament game of his young career when the third-seeded Gators (26-7) take on Northwestern State (23-8) Friday night in a South Region second-round matchup at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
Frazier isn’t the only UF player looking to move on. Everyone of his teammates need to follow suit -- and lose all negative thoughts of that Ole Miss or the Kentucky game before that, and ... (you get the idea) -- if the Gators are going to make a third straight deep run into the tournament bracket.
“What’s happened to this point is in the past,” Donovan told his team as it reconvened for practice Tuesday. “Doesn’t matter.”
That includes the blowout wins along with those maddening defeats.
“This is what we’ve been preparing for as a team, so now that it’s here we have to make the most of it,” Frazier said. “This is a chance to start over and take the things we learned from the regular season and use them to help us in the NCAA Tournament.”