Angel Rodriguez had more turnovers than points in the first half, but Miami’s junior guard shredded No.8 Florida after halftime, igniting a rousing comeback as the Hurricanes shocked the Gators 69-67 on Monday night in the O’Connell Center.
Rodriguez — who finished with a game-high 24 points — dominated the final 10 minutes, drilling a contested, fadeaway three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to cap a wild comeback by the Canes (2-0).
“I had made a couple plays prior to that, and when coach called a timeout I told him, ‘Give me the ball,’” said Rodriguez, who chipped in three assists and three steals, too. “He trusted me. I told him, ‘Give me the ball. Please.’ … I struggled early, but my teammates kept lifting me up, telling me, ‘Come on. Come on. We need you. It’s not over.’”
Rodriguez hit five three-pointers in the second half, including three consecutive three-pointers to spur an 18-1 run. In the game’s waning moments, he drew a charge with 3.0 seconds remaining to seal the upset.
“Angel Rodriguez was sensational,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Once we were able to get some defensive stops, we were able to run. When we get out in the open court, I think we’re going to be very good.”
UM trailed by as many as 14-points with eight minutes remaining, but Larranaga’s four-guard adjustment eventually caused UF problems. Miami upped the tempo, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.
“I was surprised we were even in the game,” UF coach Billy Donovan said.
“I thought our effort kept us in the game. When our effort diminished and we lost that intensity their talent level took over.”
Miami scored 48 points in the second half, shooting 7-of-10 from downtown.
Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan — UM’s leading scorer (19.0 ppg) entering the night — really struggled in the first half, with McClellan failing to score until 6:36 remaining. But Miami freshmen James Palmer (10 points) and Omar Sherman (eight points) stepped up in a rowdy atmosphere, contributing nicely until Rodriguez took over late.
“The thing about this team is that is you never know who it’s going to be,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got a lot of talent.”
The Gators (1-1), who had their school-record 33 home-game winning streak snapped, were shorthanded Monday night, with just six available scholarship players available.
UF started a rag-tag lineup that included walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz. The senior collected a career-high eight rebounds, but Florida missed the contributions of versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith (two hairline fractures in his left hand), forward Chris Walker (suspended) and Alex Murphy (ineligible).
“I was really, really proud of our guys with us being so shorthanded,” Donovan said. “We had to try some makeshift lineups. Fatigue [played a factor.] You can’t give up what we gave up in the second half.”
Finney-Smith — the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year last season — was cleared to play Sunday, but swelling and pain were too much to overcome.
Gator guards Eli Carter and Michael Frazier II tried to carry the load, combining for 34 points, including a perfect 13-for-13 start from the field.
But Florida’s two playmakers went cold late (1 for 7), and the Gators couldn’t recover. Sophomore point guard Kasey Hill couldn’t hit a basket (1 of 9 from the field) and was torched by Rodriguez.
Despite Jon Horford’s best effort in the closing minutes (two three-pointers and layup), the Gators couldn’t halt Miami’s momentum or spoil the comeback.
Florida opened the game on a 9-0 run and led 33-21 at halftime.
The seesaw affair ended when Frazier missed a jumper at the buzzer.