When Gorjok Gak walked onto the floor of the O’Connell Center, his first defensive play didn’t go as planned. Right away, the 6-foot-11 center fouled a driving MJ Walker, and Florida State extended its lead to 14-7.
Both Florida and FSU were called for a plethora of fouls in the first half — 22 to be exact — in the Gators’ 83-66 loss to their in-state rival on Monday night. The Seminoles have defeated UF in the last four matchups between the two schools.
Those fouls were complemented by sloppy play from the Gators. Florida turned the ball over 17 times, leading to 19 points off turnovers for the Seminoles.
The Gators also had no answer for FSU on the boards, getting outrebounded 51-34. Centers Kevarrius Hayes and Gak couldn’t create a presence under the basket, collecting a combined six rebounds.
“I’ve used the word soft with this team,” UF coach Mike White said. “It reared it’s ugly head tonight. Tonight was the epitome of soft.”
On offense, UF could not find the player with the hot hand, as no one really took command of the scoring effort. Florida guard Jalen Hudson -- who averaged 21.7 points per game before playing FSU -- finished with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, tied for his second-lowest total of the season. Guard KeVaughn Allen scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, and guard Egor Koulechov recorded 11 points, his second-lowest this season.
“As a team, we weren’t able to get that rhythm,” Koulechov said. “It really showed in our body language, it was terrible as a team. We just got to get better.”
The Gators fell behind early and struggled to keep up. Following a 10-1 FSU run to open the game, Florida worked its way to a one-point lead with 10 minutes left in the first half off three-pointers from Allen and forward Keith Stone.
This led to some back-and-forth action, with both teams trading the lead, but the Seminoles started to pull away. They went up by six following seven consecutive points from FSU guard Terance Mann, who did everything in that run but make a three-pointer.
Florida wasn’t out of the game yet, though, staying within reach of FSU. The Gators brought the score within four points three and a half minutes into the second half behind five points from Hudson.
However, FSU dominated UF from there, taking over on an 8-0 run to go up by 12 and keep the Gators’ offense at bay.
Turnovers continued to plague Florida and allowed FSU to take control of the game. The Seminoles overwhelmed the Gators in every statistical category other than blocks.
Mann shot 11-for-17 to record a game-high and career-high 25 points, and guard CJ Walker added 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Forward Phil Cofer recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Gators will have a chance to rebound Wednesday night when they play Loyola Chicago at 8 in the O’Connell Center.
When asked about how this loss affects UF, Hudson said two losses in a row shows that Florida needs to get tougher.
“We’re not as good as we really think we are,” Hudson said. “This was unacceptable the way we played tonight.”
You can follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake, and contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.