PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Billy Donovan briefly interrupted his duties as Florida basketball coach to become an impromptu history professor Friday night.
Here was the lesson: Back in 2007, when the Gators were coming off back-to-back national championships, Donovan's team got off to an 18-3 start and had some thinking another deep NCAA run was assured. Donovan knew otherwise and tried repeatedly to tell his players that big trouble was lurking.
That team lost nine of its final 15 games, settling for a trip to the NIT.
Reality didn't hit that team until the losing slide began in February. And therein is the silver lining to Florida's struggles right now: The reality of this current team's woes has already sunk in, with plenty of time to turn things around.
No. 18 Florida got itself into 12-0 and 20-4 holes early, never fully emerging and falling to No. 5 North Carolina 75-64 in the fifth-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis. At 3-3, Florida has matched its loss total for all of last season, when it went 36-3 and made the Final Four.
"I'm happy that reality has hit these guys here in November," Donovan said. "It's a positive. It really is good. I think in order for any team to reach their potential, they have to come to the truth. And once the truth is there in front of them, now they have the choice and the option to make some decisions."
The truth that Donovan is getting at: Florida is bad offensively. The Gators were 1 for 15 from 3-point range in the first half, finishing the night at 33 percent from the field and 22 percent from beyond the arc, still looking for their first 70-point game of the season.
"We honestly thought we were better than what we are," Florida's Jon Horford said.
"We feel better than we did after the first night, there's no question about that," Williams said.
North Carolina made seven straight shots in the early going, Florida started off by missing its first 10 and the game looked as if it was going to be a complete runaway.
By the time Florida made a shot, North Carolina had a 12-0 lead. Meeks' basket midway through the half to make it 20-4, and North Carolina wound up taking that 16-point cushion into halftime with a 39-23 lead.
A 9-2 run capped by Horford's layup got Florida to 45-37 early in the second half, and the Gators were down just 62-52 after Frazier made a 3-pointer followed by a free throw from Hill with 4:29 remaining.
But Paige curled around a screen on the ensuing Carolina possession to make a 3-pointer — his first of the night, pushing the lead to 13.
Donovan insists there's time to fix Florida's ails.
"I have hope," he said.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are 4-2 against Florida. Friday's matchup was the first meeting between the programs since the 2000 Final Four, when Florida beat North Carolina 71-59. ... Williams improved to 3-1 against the Gators, each previous matchup coming when he was at Kansas.
Florida: It's Florida's first 3-3 start since 1996-97, when the Gators finished with a 13-17 record and went 5-11 in the SEC. ... The Gators' losses have been against Miami, Georgetown and now the Tar Heels, teams with a combined 16-3 record. ... Think these Florida offensive struggles are bad? Ha. The Gators lost to North Carolina by scores of 59-14 and 42-6 in the 1920s.
BEST AND WORST
North Carolina shot a season-best 58 percent in the first half. The Tar Heels followed that by shooting a season-low 32 percent in the second half.
The Gators came into the game getting 42 percent shooting by reserves; the bench connected on a season-low 21 percent of its tries against North Carolina.
North Carolina: Home against Iowa on Wednesday night.
Florida: At Kansas, Dec. 5.