Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators again struggle defending perimeter in loss to Xavier

By OnlyGators.com Staff
November 24, 2022
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators again struggle defending perimeter in loss to Xavier

Image Credit: UAA

While most everyone else was enjoying Thanksgiving festivities, the Florida Gators opened play at the 2022 Phil Knight Legacy with a 90-83 loss to the Xavier Musketeers. Though Florida led numerous times in the contest, poor shooting to end each half doomed it in the end.

Beyond the Gators’ end-of-half struggles was an off night from redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton, who posted a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds but made just 5 of 14 shots and only saw the free throw line once in the contest. Castleton had averaged 29.3 points over Florida’s last three with 25+ points in each contest.

Let’s take a look at what went wrong for the Gators and what’s still ahead at the Phil Knight Legacy.

It was over when … Xavier completed a 6-0 run over 1:50 to take a nine-point lead with 36 seconds to play. Florida went 0 of 4 from the field in that stretch with a trio of missed 3-pointers.

The Gators held an 18-10 scoring advantage to open the second half with a four-point advantage, but the Musketeers immediately answered with a 12-2 run to lead by six. Xavier never relinquished its lead from there, going up as many as 11 points with 8:42 to play. An 11-2 stretch for UF cut its deficit down to a basket with 5:46 left, but it simply could not keep up over the remainder of the contest due to a combination of inefficient shooting and poor perimeter defense.

First half focus: In a prelude of what would occur at the end of the game, Xavier ended the first half on an 8-0 run, turning a four-point deficit into a four-point advantage at the break. Florida missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers over the final 1:25. Combined with late-game run by the Musketeers in the second half, the Gators were outscored 18-4 in the key stretches to end both halves.

Exceptional efforts: Sophomore guard Will Richard took over in the second half, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the latter period; he hit 4 of 8 triples with seven boards in the contest. Junior G Trey Bonham made the most of his first start with a game-high 23 points on 9 of 19 shooting. Freshman G Riley Kugel also had a bit of a breakout performance, hitting 2 of 3 treys for a career-high 12 points.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 2-4 all-time against Xavier and 22-22 against Big East teams … the Gators are now 5-9 against Big East teams since 2012 … Florida is now 0-2 when trailing with 5:00 left this season … the Gators were dominated 21-11 on the fastbreak and 33-22 on the defensive glass … however, Florida excelled on the offensive glass (14-9) leading to a 13-6 edge in second-chance scoring … the Gators earned a 15-point scoring margin off the bench (20-5) thanks mostly to Kugel

What it means: While this was not a poor loss by any means — Xavier is a more experienced team ranked ahead of Florida in KenPom — the Gators certainly wasted an opportunity to pick up a key Quadrant 1 victory. Not only that, they no longer have a chance to play another Quadrant 1 team in their next PK game. The Gators continued to struggle defending the perimeter, allowing the Musketeers to hit 50% of their 3-point attempts (10 of 20). This was a similar struggle Florida faced last week when FAU hit 54.2% of its attempts from long range in UF’s only other loss of the season to this point. Beyond that, the Gators missed numerous close-range attempts; finishing at the basket has been another consistent issue throughout this young season.

What’s next? Dropping into the loser’s half of the bracket, Florida will turn around and face Oregon State on Friday at 6 p.m. ET. The game will air live nationally on ESPNU. That means Gators basketball and football (at Florida State) will be playing simultaneously later Friday evening.

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