Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators rout Quinnipiac to conclude nonconference play

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 30, 2023
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators rout Quinnipiac to conclude nonconference play

Image Credit: UAA

Florida Gators men’s basketball will enter 2024 with six straight wins to its credit after a dominant 97-72 win over the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. It was the second consecutive home victory for the Gators, which had played six of their seven prior contests away from the friendly confines of the O’Dome prior to a two-game stretch in Gainesville to end the season.

Let’s take a look at what went down Saturday and what’s ahead for Florida in 2024.

It was over when … sophomore guard Riley Kugel finished an alley-oop attempt with a one-handed jam as part of an extended 18-5 scoring stretch to put Florida ahead by a game-high 33 points with 9:20 to play. UF saw Quinnipiac cut into its halftime lead early in the period but rallied behind Kugel’s 10 points as its lead surged to an insurmountable sum.

First half focus: Florida ended the opening period on a 19-4 scoring stretch to pull ahead 23 points at the break. Redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin along with junior guards Walter Clayton Jr. and Will Richard combined for 41 of those 52 points (78.8%) while hitting 7 of 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Exceptional efforts: Richard finished with a game-high 22 points on 5 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc in just 20 minutes. Pullin was even more efficient scoring 16 points on 3 of 4 shooting from deep as one of five players with three assists in the game. Clayton hit 6 of 7 free throws on his way to 12 points, while Kugel helped solidify the victory in the second half but saw his struggles continue. Going 2 of 8 from the field and 0 of 3 from long range, Kugel is now 11 of 40 from the floor and 0 of 18 from 3-point land over the last four games. He is clearly trying to make a difference in other phases of the game, but the shooting struggles remain a massive concern.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 8-2 all-time against MAAC teams and 1-0 against Quinnipac after their first meeting … the Gators went undefeated in the months of December … UF went unbeated at home in ononconference play for the first time since 2013-14 … Florida improved to 9-1 when leading at halftime and 9-0 when leading with 5 minutes left … the Gators are now 9-2 when outrebounding an opponent, 10-0 when outshooting an opponent (6-0 from downtown), 8-1 when attempting more free throws and 9-1 when winning the bench scoring battle

What it means: This served as another building-block win for Florida coming off its 96-57 domination of Grambling State last week. The Gators went through an extremely difficult nonconference slate — largely due to the number of games away from home — and emerged with a 10-3 mark. However, they went 6-0 at home, going undefeated in nonconference play at home for the first time since 2013-14. UF is only 3-3 against teams from the first two quadrants, but as a team comprised of numerous transfers, starting slow was not a surprise. Head coach Todd Golden appears to have Florida primed to make an NCAA Tournament run, and while there is plenty of season left, the Gators are in striking distance to do just that if they can thrive in SEC play.

What’s next: Florida will start league competition with its toughest game of the season to this point as it hosts No. 8 Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 6. The game will tip off at 12:30 p.m. ET and air live nationally on ESPN. The Gators have lost four straight and nine of their last 10 meetings against the Wildcats with a 0-5 record in the O’Dome during that span. This marks the earliest UF and UK will meet on the hardwood since the 1998-99 season, which is the last time the programs opened SEC play against one another.

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