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Florida basketball stars talk about win over Arkansas

Florida basketball picked up its first conference win of the season on Saturday over Arkansas.

After the victory, guards Riley Kugel and Will Richard and forward Tyrese Samuel spoke to the media. Kugel led all scorers with 20 points off the bench, adding five rebounds, two steals and a block to his stat line. It’s unclear when and if Kugel will return to the starting lineup, but this is a clear improvement from where things were headed.

Meanwhile, Samuel dominated the low post, scoring 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting (1-of-3 from deep) and grabbing 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Richard scored 13 points and has been a key piece of the offense for over a month.

Here’s what they said after the 22-point win.

How important is it to bounce back with a win like this?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Richard: It was real important. We knew that we had to go into today aggressive. We knew we had to make a big adjustment on defense and really just come out playing with effort and playing together and just holding each other accountable.

What was the emphasis on defense, especially in the second half?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel: In practice, coach kept on saying that we let up 50 points in the second half (against Ole Miss), so he made that an emphasis. So, our goal was to go out there and make sure that doesn’t happen again, and it didn’t happen and we came out with a win. So, that was most definitely an emphasis this week.

Is this the kind of bounceback Kugel expect?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Kugel: It felt good just to be back out there with the guys. Good team win.

Follow-up: “What kind of confidence do you gain from this?”

Kugel: It definitely is a confidence-booster, for sure. But just being out there, playing with the team, getting the groove back is all you can really ask for.

Samuel, on hitting a three-pointer

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel: I hit the two midrange and I was like, ‘I got to shoot this 3.’ But I missed. It’s alright. Plenty more to come.

Follow-up, to Kugel: “What about your banked three at the buzzer?”

Kugel: That was the basketball gods.

What happened with Golden?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Kugel: Everything is perfectly fine. We’re on the same page. Time for the next game.

Follow-up: “What is (Golden’s) message to you?”

Kugel: We were just talking, but we’re on the same page now. We’re good.

Follow-up: “What went right against Arkansas?”

Kugel: Really, driving. I knew they weren’t giving me no calls at the start of the game, but my coaches, they told me to keep going and that it’s going to be there.

Samuel, on bouncing back himself

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel: It was big. It was a confidence booster, and I needed that. My coaches, this week, asked me if everything was okay, are you good? And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m good. I’m going to get back and make sure I’m right for the remainder of the season.’

The coaches helped me. They’re willing to do anything to help me get back to how I was playing in the preseason. But yeah, I got a nice little double-double today, so I’m going to continue with this trend and continue to win games for Florida.

How important is it to win the battle in the post?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel: It was big. They emphasized that they’re a good second-chance team with offensive rebounds and put-back dunks, so locking down everything was good for us. We were plus-17 on the boards today. It was good.

Follow-up: “Was there some intent there after the defensive performance against Ole Miss?”

Samuel: That was the emphasis, playing defense. What was keyed on this week, turnovers in practice. We were minus in points for that, just making sure we were solid. No gambling, just making sure to make them make tough shots. Defense was the key today.

On Kugel's dunk

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Kugel: I just saw a lane and took it, really.

Follow-up, to Richard: “Do you ever get surprised by Kugel?”

Richard: Every day. He does something different every day where I looked at him and I’m like ‘Who are you?’ It’s just weird. We know what he can do. I’m just proud of him getting back on track.”

What about Alex Condon's rapid improvement?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Samuel: Most definitely. Condo’s a monster. You should see him in practice. It shows out there. He’s a monster. He can’t be stopped. That’s it.

Kugel: Facts.

Follow-up: “Is it surprising? What is it about him?”

Richard: He definitely came in, he knows basketball. He knows how to play the right way. At the end of the day, he’s going to come out and play as hard as possible. It’s definitely going to easily translate and catch up with everything just because of how hard he plays. He works hard, so it’s no surprise to us.

What is Florida's ceiling this season?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Kugel: As high as it can be. Obviously, I want a national championship. I know the guys want a national championship. It’s just if we want to get it or not.

Follow-up: “What needs to happen against Tennessee?”

Richard: I would just say our togetherness. I feel like we hold each other accountable and we’re communicating on both ends of the floor. It started with a good week of practice. We came in after the Ole Miss loss and just decided we got to make a change and we all got to be held accountable and just work hard.

Is Kugel getting comfortable in the sixth-man role?

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Kugel: I wouldn’t really … any role that I’m in now. I’m starting to realize that I just need to be blessed with anything, no matter where I am. I could be  last off the bench, I’m just here for the guys. I want to win. Whatever it takes.

Follow-up: “What are Florida’s aspirations?”

Richard: Same thing (Kugel) said. We’re all on the same page and we want to do it at the highest level. We agree with everything he just said.

Follow-up: “Riley, did you ever question your confidence?”

Kugel: No. I wouldn’t say it’s confidence. Well, confidence has definitely been part of it, but I don’t think it was all confidence. It was just more doing the right habits, getting my daily schedule and just being better overall.

Next up

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Florida returns to the road to take on the Tennessee Volunteers inside Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Tuesday, Jan. 16. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

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PHOTOS: Highlights from Florida basketball’s win vs Arkansas

Florida’s head coach talks about Gators’ big win over Arkansas

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire