AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins had plenty of complaints after his team’s worst loss of the season.
Too many turnovers. Not enough effort. Maybe even some selfishness.
Dorian Finney-Smith scored 24 points, Brandone Francis-Ramirez hit three huge 3-pointers and Florida upset the ninth-ranked Mountaineers 88-71 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday.
It gave Florida coach Mike White a signature win in his first season and surely will help the Gators’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament in March. It also left Huggins scratching his head and searching for answers.
“Is it rotations? Is it effort? Is it guys not wanting to give effort so they stay in the game longer?” Huggins said. “I think we’ve got some of that going on that we didn’t have before. The only way to fix that is to don’t put them in the game at all. Then they kind of figure out they better play hard. We just didn’t play hard. We played, for most people, hard. But we didn’t play hard the way we have to play to be successful.”
Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip scored 15 apiece off the bench for West Virginia, which gave up its most points of the season. Devin Williams chipped in a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
But starting guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. were a combined 4 for 14 from the floor, including 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
“We have to play like our hairs on fire because admittedly we’re not the greatest shooting team in the world, so we’ve got to get more shots than the opposition,” Huggins said.
The Mountaineers shot 43 percent from the field and finished with 18 turnovers.
“We may be the worst transition team in the country, which is kind of odd because we kind of try to live on transition,” Huggins said. “But we kept fumbling it around and throwing it around and double-dribble and did everything else we could do.”
West Virginia played without starting forward Jonathan Holton, who was suspended indefinitely Thursday for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Huggins said there was no timetable for his return. He also said Holton’s absence had little to do with the 17-point loss.
“It’s not a matter of that,” he said. “It’s a matter of us taking better care of the ball, and certainly Jon being here wouldn’t help that. We have to take care of the ball.”
Florida closed the first half with a 14-3 run that turned a four-point game into a double-digit affair, and when Finney-Smith hit his third 3 right after the break, it was clear this was going to be the Gators’ day.
Huggins turned to his bench and nearly used up his timeouts trying to squash Florida’s momentum, but nothing worked.
“We weren’t as coachable as we normally are,” Huggins said. “I kind of got the feeling that it turned into more about me than it did about us.”
West Virginia: Fell to 0-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Mountaineers lost to LSU last year and to Missouri during the 2013-14 season. … Remained winless against Florida in the Sunshine State, dropping to 0-4 in Gainesville (0-2), Jacksonville (0-1) and Miami (0-1).
Florida: Former Gators Jason Williams and Lee Humphrey attended the game. … Florida assistant Darris Nichols played 141 games for West Virginia (2004-08), scoring 993 points. … Football coach Jim McElwain, making an appearance during a big recruiting weekend, spoke to the crowd at halftime.
West Virginia plays at Iowa State on Tuesday.
Florida hosts Arkansas on Wednesday.