Forty-one combined points from transfer guards Trey Bonham and Will Richard weren’t enough.
The Gators hung tight with the Xavier Musketeers in their first game at the 2022 Phil Knight Legacy, but they couldn’t close the game.
UF (3-2) lost to Xavier (4-1) 90-83 in Portland, Oregon, Thursday. The Musketeers hit 10 3-pointers on 50% shooting from behind the arc to beat the Gators. Notably, guard Kowacie Reeves, who has averaged 20.5 minutes per game this season, did not see any action and had no injury designation.
Florida jumped out of the gate with buckets from guard Kyle Lofton and forward CJ Felder, who hit his first 3-pointer of the season. The script quickly flipped on the Gators, however.
Xavier rattled off a 12-point scoring run and held Florida without a field goal for nearly five minutes. Forward Colin Castleton stopped the bleeding with a dunk at the 13:39 mark. UF trailed 14-7, and its efforts to climb back into the game began.
By the game’s third media timeout, Florida had worked all the way back — sparked by seven points by freshman guard Riley Kugel — and led 24-23 with 7:35 left to play until halftime.
The Gators showed a keen balance on offense, as all nine players who took the floor for UF recorded points. Bonham was the first player to crack double figures in the game with a 3-pointer assisted by Castleton.
In the final 1:07 of the first half Xavier stole all the momentum the Gators gained. The Musketeers scored eight-straight points to close the half, including a 3-point play after Xavier guard Souley Boum stole the ball from a lackadaisical Myreon Jones, who got his pocket picked while talking to UF head coach Todd Golden.
Florida shot exactly 50% from the field and corralled two more rebounds than Xavier (16-14) in the opening 20 minutes. Still, the Gators trailed the Musketeers 42-38 at the half.
Scoring runs were absent from the first five minutes of the second half. The Gators eventually reclaimed the lead, 53-50, on a layup by Felder and a fast-break dunk by Richard.
Kugel knocked in his second from behind the arc — pushing him to 10 points for the first time in his college career — and the Gators led by four, 56-52.
Xavier scored eight straight in less than two minutes and flipped the Gators advantage to a deficit. The run included a pair of triples by guards Claude Desmond and Colby Jones. The Musketeers began the half shooting 66% from 3-point range, and they led by eight at the 11:30 television timeout.
The onslaught from deep range continued with a 3-pointer by forward Jack Nunge, his second of the game. On the ensuing Florida possession, Nunge blocked Castleton, but the Gators’ star stayed in control and finished the layup. It was only Florida’s second field goal in a nearly four-minute span.
Xavier’s Jones hit two more 3-point shots to grow his squad’s lead to 11 points, 73-62. He tied Boum with 20 points to lead the Musketeers at a timeout with 7:50 left in the game.
Richard drilled a triple before the stoppage, and then he splashed in another one after. On the next trip down the floor Bonham converted a 3-point play. The Gators had life.
Castleton, Richard and Bonham all poured in baskets down the stretch, but Florida struggled to get defensive stops. Xavier maintained a minimal cushion, 82-79, with slightly more than three minutes remaining.
The Musketeers methodically killed the clock and took down the Gators for the second time in as many seasons. Layups from Bonham and Kugel were too little, too late.
Florida now heads to the consolation bracket and will face Oregon State at 6 p.m. Friday. The game will be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper.