GAINESVILLE — Loyola-Chicago is the latest team to capitalize, stunning Florida, the nation’s fifth-ranked team, 65-59, Wednesday night in the O’Connell Center.
Two days after an 83-66 loss to Florida State, the Gators looked to get back on track against the Ramblers, a 16.5-point underdog.
Instead, Loyola-Chicago (9-1) staked an early lead and rarely was not in control against the Gators, who led just 93 seconds.
A driving layup by UF senior point guard Chris Chiozza cut the Ramblers’ lead to 61-59 with 1:29 remaining. From there, the Gators ran out of gas to fall to a Loyola-Chicago squad that lost by 26 points Nov. 28 at Boise State.
Two days earlier in Portland, Ore., the Gators’ season took a turn for the worse.
Leading top-ranked Duke by 17 points, UF fell apart during the final 10 minutes of an 87-84 loss. The Gators (5-3) since have lacked energy and confidence. Teams have outscored UF by 44 points in the past 90 minutes.
Looking to shake up his lineup after the FSU loss, UF coach Mike White benched leading scorer Jalen Hudson and fellow guard KeVaughn Allen, ending a streak of 68 consecutive starts for the preseason first-team All-SEC selection.
But Loyola-Chicago opened the game shooting 10 of 13 to stake a 27-13 lead.
The Gators would respond with runs of 8-0 and 9-0 to eventually cut the lead to 32-31. A dunk with 17:02 remaining in the game by center Kevarrius Hayes following a stolen inbounds pass gave the Gators 39-38 lead — their first since a 4-3 advantage 17 seconds into the game.
Loyola-Chicago answered with a pair of layups to go back ahead 42-39 as UF could not contain Ramblers’ guard Aundre Jackson. The 6-foot-5 Jackson capitalized on his matchup with 6-foot-2 KeVaughn Allen to score three consecutive baskets in the paint. A 3-point by Donte Ingram pushed Loyola-Chicago’s lead back to 49-43.
Jackson finished the game 10-of-12 shooting for a game-high 23 points. Big man Cameron Krutwig added 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting as Loyola-Chicago finished 26 of 50 from the field (52 percent).
No UF player even scored in double figures as the Gators shot 36.9 percent (24 of 65) and 2 of 19 from 3-point range.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida State didn't have much time to savor Monday's win at fifth-ranked Florida.
The Seminoles were playing their second game in three nights but did not have a letdown as they defeated Loyola-Maryland 96-71 on Wednesday.
The win improves to Florida State to 8-0, which is the first time that has happened since the 2003-04 seasons, when they won its first 10 games. All but one of the victories has been by 17 points or more.
"Overall I'm pleased," coach Leonard Hamilton said. "This game gave us what we needed. Part of developing is sometimes you have to overcome the mental challenges of having an emotional victory, recharge and do it again."
Florida State got off to a fast start, scoring 8 of the first 10 points. It went up by double digits (17-6) on a Phil Cofer dunk with 15:12 remaining and would lead 46-31 at halftime. The Seminoles led by as many as 26 (84-58) on a Cofer jumper with 6:33 remaining.
Braian Angola led Florida State with 18 points, CJ Walker added 15 and M.J. Walker 14, including four 3-pointers, before fouling out.