Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators show improvement handling Richmond in Sunrise

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 9, 2023
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators show improvement handling Richmond in Sunrise

Image Credit: UAA

A far better performance from buzzer to buzzer was delivered by the Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon in Sunrise, Florida, as the program shook off an extremely poor start earlier this week to find itself once again. Florida prevailed 87-76 over the Richmond Spiders, winning its matchup in the second game of the 2023 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

The Gators remain in the midst of an extended stretch of games away from home; Florida’s contest earlier this week was its only one in Gainesville over a 35-day span. While UF (6-3) entered as a better team than Richmond (5-5), the victory was nevertheless an important one.

Let’s take a look at what went right for Florida on Saturday.

It was over when … redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin answered a 3-pointer with one of his own, pushing the Gators ahead 11 points with 5:32 remaining. Pullin scored five straight as part of a short 7-3 stretch that gave Florida back a double-digit lead it had briefly lost. Junior guard Will Richard hit three straight 3-pointers for a personal 9-0 run earlier in the half, pushing Florida ahead of Richmond by a game-high 16 points with 11:47 to play. Richard also scored five straight for the Gators to open the period, giving him 14 of the team’s first 22 second-half points.

First half focus: An extended 11-4 scoring stretch late before halftime pushed Florida ahead 11 points with 4:22 until the break, and it maintained a 10-point lead at the whistle. Redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel dominated inside once again, and sophomore G Riley Kugel matched him with nine points over the first 20 minutes. It was a rather ho-hum half, though the Gators looked much more motivated and cohesive than they were earlier this week.

Exceptional efforts: Richard was exceptional, finishing with a game-high 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting with 7 rebounds. Samuel remained strong in both halves posting a double-double of 18 points and 12 boards. Sophomore center Micah Handlogten proved once again to be a difference-maker in the paint with 8 points and 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes while consistently protecting the rim on defense.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 4-2 all-time against Richmond with three straight wins since 2014 … UF improved to 9-2 against current Atlantic 10 programs with four straight wins since 2018 … the Gators are now 19-4 in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic dating back to 1997 … Florida improved to 17-4 under head coach Todd Golden when leading at halftime, 22-1 when leading with 5 minutes left … the Gators are now 13-4 when outrebounding an opponent (49-30) and got a rare win (5-16) when an opponent shoots better from downtown (.316-.500) … Florida dominated Richmond scoring in the paint (34-18), off the bench (21-8) and on second chances (11-6)

What it means: The Gators did exactly what they were supposed to do (literally … they entered as an 11-point favorite). Florida found consistency and took advantage of an overmatched Richmond team on both ends. Freshman F/C Alex Condon wasn’t efficient offensively but showed out again on the defensive end with 8 boards and 2 blocks. Pullin finished with 12 points.

Most concerning was the lack of scoring from Kugel and junior G Will Clayton, who combined for 19 points, though Clayton at least dished a game-high 6 assists. Kugel’s struggles continue. Though he’s had a couple brights spots this season, he has registered equal or more turnovers to baskets in five games already this campaign (including Saturday when he had four each). Kugel shot just 4 of 16 and missed all seven of his attempts from beyond the arc. If there is any time of year for him to struggle, this is the time; still, with only four nonconference games remaining, a turnaround could significantly spark the Gators entering SEC play.

What’s next? Florida will play its fifth of six games away from home during a stretch of 35 days when it battles East Carolina on Thursday in the 2023 Florida Tip-Off in Lakeland. The game will tip at 7 p.m. ET and air live nationally on SEC Network. It is UF’s only contest next week.

How are the women doing? Florida won its 2023 SEC/ACC Challenge matchup at Georgia Tech 68-58 last week but fell at Marshall 91-88 last Saturday. The Gators now sit 6-2 on the season, though the road defeat to the Thundering Herd is a significant blemish. Senior center Ra Shaya Kyle (14.6 points, 9.8 rebounds) is nearly averaging a double-double, while senior G Aliyah Matharu (19.6 points) leads all scorers.

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