After suffering a beatdown at the hand of Tennessee on Tuesday, the Florida Gators bounced back with a 79-67 win over the Missouri Tigers on Saturday night.
Florida was tested for most of the first half, but things were fairly one-sided in the second. Every Gators starter finished the night with double-digit points, and a 9-2 run early in the second period put Florida out in front comfortably.
The Tennessee loss was a knock to the ego, for sure, but finally winning a game on the road has to mean something for this Florida team. Maybe they’ll be able to build off it and notch a Quadrant 1 win before March comes.
Let’s take a closer look at the win.
A road win... finally!
Florida notched a few neutral site wins during the non-conference slate, but this is the first true road win of the year for the Orange and Blue. The Gators tend to play down to lower-ranked opponents, but that can’t happen against SEC teams.
After a tightly contested first half, Florida ran away with things. The only Tiger that could buy a bucket against UF was Tamar Bates, but even a 36-point night from him failed to put a dent in Florida’s lead.
Florida’s next road game is at the end of the month against Kentucky. The Gators will be seeking revenge for a game that got away from to open the SEC schedule.
A complete team effort
Unlike Missouri with Bates, Florida spread the ball around all night, finishing the game with five double-digit scorers. Tyrese Samuel led the team with 17 points, and Walter Clayton Jr. added 15 more. Micah Handlogten recorded his second double-double of the season.
Florida only scored 11 baskets off assists, but turnovers were also kept low at eight on the night. The Gators dominated the boards, outrebounding Missouri 40-27.
This wasn’t Florida’s best game of the season, but they looked like an NCAA Tournament once again.
The Gators didn’t play that well in the first half, but they stayed in the game by knocking down the three ball at a high rate. Led by Walter Clayton’s three makes from deep, Florida shot over 55% from beyond the arc in the first half.
That number dropped below 30% in the second half, but Florida managed to run away with the game and win by double digits. The main difference was Walter Clayton Jr., who nailed his first three attempts of the night but went cold from deep after that. Will Richard struggled as well, shooting 1 for 5 in the second half.
Perhaps most importantly, Florida eliminated Missouri’s three-point game for most of the night. The Tigers finished the night making just 3 of 16 three-point attempts.
Kugel still coming off the bench
All eyes are going to be on Riley Kugel for the rest of the season, and Todd Golden is still keeping him out of the starting lineup for now. That’s going to raise some eyebrows, but Kugel is settling into the sixth-man role quite nicely.
Although we’d like to see him score more, eight points, seven rebounds and three assists over 21 minutes is far from a quiet night. The one thing to watch is the foul trouble. Three personal fouls over 20 minutes isn’t great and it got him the early hook.
Let this be the start of something
Florida is still looking for that signature win to lock in an NCAA Tournament bid, and this road win could be the start of something for Todd Golden’s group. You need momentum in this game, and beating a team convincingly in their arena provides a spark.
Up next, Florida hosts Mississippi State and Georgia. Then it’s time to hit the road to Lexington. If the Gators can close out the month without a loss, it will be hard to deny them a spot at the table.
Florida returns home to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs inside the O’Connell Center on Wednesday, Jan. 24. Tipoff time is slated for another late start, this time at 8:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.