Photo credit: UAA
While most others were enjoying Thanksgiving celebrations, the Florida Gators opened the Phil Knight Legacy 2022 game with a 90-83 loss to the Xavier Musketeers. Despite leading the competition numerous times, Florida was ultimately doomed by poor shooting at the end of each half.
Alongside the Gators’ struggles late in the half was a free night from Redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton, who hit 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 averaged 29.3 points over Florida’s last three with 25+ points in each contest.
Let’s take a look at what went wrong with the Gators and what’s ahead of 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 left. Florida went 0-of-4 in this stretch with a trio of missed 3-pointers from the field.
The Gators had an 18-10 lead to open the second half with a four-point lead, but the Musketeers immediately responded with a 12-2 run and a six-point lead. Xavier never gave up his lead from there, climbing up to 11 points at 8:42 to play. An 11-2 equalizer for UF reduced their deficit to a goal with 5:46 left, but they just couldn’t keep up over the rest of the competition due to a combination of inefficient shooting and poor outside defense.
Focus first half: As a taste of what would happen at the end of the game, Xavier ended the first half with an 8-0 run, turning a four-point deficit into a four-point lead at the break. Florida missed two shots and committed two turnovers over the final 1:25. Combined with the Musketeers’ late-game run in the second half, the Gators were outplayed 18-4 in the crucial sections to end both halves.
Exceptional Efforts: Sophomore guard Will Richard took over in the second half and scored 15 of his 18 points in the final 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 of 23 points on 9 of 19 shooting. Freshman G Riley Kugel also had some sort of breakthrough performance, hitting 2 of 3 Treys for a career-high 12 points.
Bits and pieces: 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 it’s 5 left this season: 00 behind… The Gators were dominated 21-11 on the fast break and 33-22 on the defensive glass… However, Florida excelled on the offensive glass (14-9), resulting in a 13-6 lead at second chances… the Gators earned a 15-point lead off the bench (20-5) thanks largely to ball
What it means: While that was by no means a bad loss — Xavier is a more experienced team, ranking ahead of Florida in KenPom — the Gators certainly missed an opportunity to grab an important win in Quadrant 1. In addition, they no longer have a chance to face another team from Quadrant 1 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 out of 20). This was a similar struggle that Florida faced last week, when FAU hit 54.2% of their attempts from distance in UF’s only other loss this season to that point. Additionally, the Gators missed numerous close-range attempts; Finishing off the basket has been another consistent theme this season.
What’s next? Florida, which falls in the losers half, turns around and meets Oregon State at 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday. The game will be broadcast live nationwide on ESPNU. That means the Gators will play basketball and soccer (at Florida State) at the same time later Friday night.