Florida basketball sinks to new low ending season below .500 after embarrassing NIT loss to UCF

By OnlyGators.com Staff
March 15, 2023
Florida basketball sinks to new low ending season below .500 after embarrassing NIT loss to UCF

Image Credit: UAA

Faced with an opportunity to close its season on a high note, Florida Gators basketball instead played one of its worst games of the season, finishing the 2022-23 campaign below .500 following a 67-49 loss to UCF in the first round of the 2023 NIT. This despite Florida hosting UCF at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and entering the game as a No. 4 seed in its region.

Gators basketball at 16-17 finished with a losing record for the first time since 2014-15 and second time since 1997-98, the latter of which was Billy Donovan’s second season — the last occasion in which Florida lost a first-round NIT game. UF had played in the event four times between those dates, winning at least one game in every NIT (three times winning at least two games).

The defeat also meant the Gators finished below .500 in basketball and football across the same athletic season for the first time in 43 years (1979-80).

The loss of star forward Colin Castleton, an All-SEC first team selection, played into Florida’s basement-level performance over the final two months of the season, but the team frequently looked noncompetitive down the stretch. The Gators dropped 8 of their last 11 games, losing four of those contests by double digits.

Let’s take a look at Florida’s excruciating final game of the season with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … UCF scored a fastbreak layup to conclude a 13-2 run and jump ahead 18 points with 10:48 to play. The Knights extended that margin to 21 with the Gators never substantially cutting into their deficit as they largely gave up over the final quarter of the game. UF’s 49 points were a season-low, and its 32.2% mark from the field was its fourth-worst of the campaign.

First half focus: Florida opened an early 9-2 lead before allowing a horrendous 24-5 run to UCF over 9:48 to trail by 12 with 7 minutes until the break. The Gators committed 10 turnovers in that span. and shot just 32% from the field and 20% from 3-point land in the opening period. The Knights dominated inside outscoring the hosts 24-10 in the paint while posting 15 points off 13 total turnovers in the period.

Exceptional effort: No one. Freshman guard Riley Kugel posted a team-high 13 points but did so on 4 of 12 shooting with nearly all his makes coming from downtown (3 of 6). The rest of the team went 1 of 18 from long range (5.6%) and no one else scored more than six points.

Odds & ends: Florida lost for just the second time to UCF overall (10-2) and the first time at home (8-1) … the Gators fell to 14-14 all-time in the NIT, 9-3 in the O’Dome … UF scored a season-low 49 points, and its 32.2% shooting mark was its fourth-worst this year … Florida was again dominated in the paint, getting outrebounded 39-29 and outscored 40-28 … the Gators finished below .500 for the first time since 2014-15 and second time since 1997-98

What it means / what’s next? With head coach Todd Golden choosing to rely on transfers — rather than high school recruiting — as a means of building his roster each year, Florida will have a lot of work to do this offseason. The program is losing at least five players, and Golden will also have to focus some efforts on retaining Kugel, who already said he has no intent to enter the transfer portal.

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