Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators embarrassed by West Virginia in worst loss since 1999

By OnlyGators.com Staff
November 27, 2022
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators embarrassed by West Virginia in worst loss since 1999

Image Credit: UAA

The Florida Gators entered the 2022 Phil Knight Legacy with high hopes to compete well against talented competition in a prestigious event. They will leave Portland, Oregon, on Sunday night having lost two of three games and suffering their worst defeat in more than two decades.

Florida fell 84-55 to the West Virginia Mountaineers in a fifth-place tournament game that had no particular meaning other than exposing many of the same issues the Gators have been facing already in Year 1 under head coach Todd Golden. UF is now 4-3 on the season with one month to go until SEC play begins.

The 29-point loss was the Gators’ worst since a 35-point defeat at Tennessee on Feb. 10, 1999. It was also Florida’s worst loss to a nonconference opponent since earlier that season when UF fell by 30 at Duke on Dec. 9, 1998.

What went wrong for Florida on Sunday night? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … West Virginia opened the second half with a 20-2 run (yes, 20-2) to lead 61-35 with 14:35 to play. The Gators trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half but used a 12-4 stretch to cut their deficit in half at the break. The hope was they would maintain that same momentum coming out of halftime, but instead, they simply could not keep up with the Mountaineers.

What went wrong? UF opened 1 of 7 from the field in the second half as WVU went on its game-clinching run. The Gators also had a couple other ice-cold stretches in the game: 1 of 10 (first half), 1 of 8 (second half). Florida shot season-lows of 34.5% from the inside the arc (20 of 58) and 11.8% from beyond it (2 of 17). The Gators also failed at making gimmies, hitting just 59.1% of their foul shots (13 of 22).

Beyond that, Florida again failed to defend the perimeter with any consistency as West Virginia pulled away by making 5 of 10 triples in the second half. The Gators also continued to struggle sharing the ball with a season-low seven assists on 20 made baskets, and they were badly outrebounded 49-28 (15-6 on the offensive glass).

Only one player, redshirt senior guard Kyle Lofton, scored in double figures with 17 points on 7 of 16 shooting. Junior G Trey Bonham, who had been starring for Florida as of late, went 0 for 9 from the floor with three points all on free throws. He was one of three Gators to commit four fouls in the game.

The others: redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton (three) and senior center Jason Jitoboh (four) committed theirs in the first half; they also coughed up three turnovers apiece. Castleton, who averaged 26.7 points over his three prior games, scored just 8.7 per game in Portland (three on Sunday) with 11 total fouls. Jitoboh was the only Florida player to shoot better than 50% from the floor Sunday, making 3 of 4 attempts for eight points.

Odds and ends: Florida was outscored 20-6 off turnovers, 12-4 off the fastbreak and 15-6 on second chances … UF fell to 7-4 all-time against WVU with a 2-2 mark in neutral-site games … the Gators are now 26-20 all-time against Big 12 opponents

What it means: Nothing good but also nothing disastrous. Florida is an almost entirely new team learning a new system with a first-year coach. There are bound to be growing pains. The Gators lost three games by 30+ points in Year 3 under former head coach Billy Donovan and went on to win two national championships under his watch. Overreacting to this particular game does no one any good, and a sleepy performance in a meaningless contest at the end of an excruciatingly long tournament over a holiday weekend more than 2,000 miles away from home is relatively understandable even if it was difficult to watch.

However, Florida played poorly all tournament — even in its 81-68 win over Oregon State on Friday — and it has major defensive issues, particularly on the perimeter. Sophomore G Kowacie Reeves, perhaps the Gators’ second-best player, did not see the floor for the second time in three games. Reeves has now played just 18 minutes across the last four contests after being benched in the second half of the Florida State game. Official word from Florida is that Reeves is not injured but rather not being played as a coach’s decision unrelated to discipline. Try to make sense of that.

What’s next? Florida will spend the next two weeks in the Sunshine State starting with a pair of get-right battles Wednesday against Florida A&M (8 p.m. ET, SEC Network+) and Sunday against Stetson (2 p.m., SEC Network).

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