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2016 NIT: Florida Gators Eliminated 82-77 by George Washington

The SEC is now out of the running for the NIT title.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators ultimately didn't have enough to get past the George Washington Colonials and lost in the NIT quarterfinals 82-77.

This one was an extraordinarily close game throughout. Neither team managed a lead of more than three in the entire first half, and GW went to the break up 39-36. The first lead of more than three didn't come until the 14:52 mark when Kevin Larsen sunk a three to put the Colonials up 50-45. George Washington went up by as much as eight shortly thereafter, but with one brief exception, the rest of the game didn't see a lead of larger than five.

Fast forward to the waning minutes. Chris Chiozza made a jumper to tie the game at 73 with 2:25 to go. Two possessions later, Tyler Cavanaugh made one-of-two from the free throw line to get a slim lead again. Dorian Finney-Smith missed a triple on the other end, and Cavanaugh answered that with a made three pointer to go up by four with 54 ticks left. KeVaughn Allen got the offensive board after Kasey Hill missed a shot, and Larsen fouled Hill on a subsequent attempt. Hill only made one of his free throws, making it a 77-74 game with half a minute left. Though Chiozza would make a three with 12 seconds left, Cavanaugh made four free throws in the final 16 seconds to preserve the win.

Allen led the Gators with 22 points, while Kevarrius Hayes hit 14 points for the second consecutive game in his second consecutive start. Dorian Finney-Smith finished with nine points and eight boards in his final game for the Gators, while Hill had 12 and Justin Leon contributed 11 off the bench. The lack of the injured John Egbunu showed, though, as Cavanaugh had 23, Larsen had 19 and 13, and the Colonials outrebounded the Gators 40-35.

Florida's first season under Mike White finished in something of a disappointment with an NIT berth, but it was a better season than Billy Donovan's last. The graduating Finney-Smith is the only regular who is definitely gone, so the core of this team will be back unless players transfer out.

It's early yet on the White era, but Florida basketball didn't collapse without Donovan around. For a program that has little to boast about outside of Donovan's tenure, that's a win of sorts in and of itself. Whether White will be able to get the program back to near-annual NCAA Tournament appearances—and keep ahead of bigger name recent hires within the conference like Ben Howland, Avery Johnson, Rick Barnes, and Bruce Pearl—is the question for coming seasons.