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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Gators fall to Wake Forest in first-ever ACC/SEC Challenge

Florida failed to make a jumper in last four minutes of game

Sophomore guard Riley Kugel drives the ball in the Gators' 89-68  against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.
Sophomore guard Riley Kugel drives the ball in the Gators' 89-68 against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.

The Gators and Demon Deacons stood tied at 66 apiece in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge with four minutes left in the game. 

Florida proceeded to turn the ball several times in costly moments as Wake Forest pulled away in the closing minutes. The Demon Deacons ended the game on a 16-5 run as UF failed to record a made jumper in the last four minutes of the game. 

The Florida Gators (4-3) lost to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3) 82-71 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wednesday night. Sophomore guard Riley Kugel led UF with 24 points in the losing effort on 9-14 shooting and 4-6 from deep. 

The Gators shot just 40% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. The Demon Deacons shot 49% from the field.

Wake Forest opened up the game up 5-0 before UF graduate student forward Tyrese Samuel converted an and-one to get the Gators on the board.

Freshman forward Thomas Haugh knocked down a triple to cut the deficit to three. Sophomore guard Riley Kugel cut it to one after he scored a layup, but missed his free throw and he failed to convert the three-point play.

The Demon Deacons proceeded to go on a 6-0 run to go up 15-8. Florida junior guard Will Richard ended the run after he knocked down a three from the right wing. 

Kugel buried a triple to cut it back to one. The two sides traded baskets down low following Kugel’s 3-pointer. 

The Florida defense stifled Wake Forest into bad shots. The Demon Deacons had a stretch where they made one shot in 10 attempts. During that span, UF took the lead after a mid-range jumper from junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. 

Wake Forest went on a nearly four-minute-long scoring drought, but Florida only managed to stretch the lead to three. Demon Deacons forward Andrew Carr got open after the UF defense broke down and drilled a triple to tie the game at 20 apiece. 

The two sides traded triples as Florida led by two with just less than seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Carr hit a turnaround jumper against a UF defender to put Wake Forest back in the lead 30-29 late in the first half. 

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The Gators picked up the loose ball on a turnover, and Kugel got it in a fastbreak. Kugel rose up and threw down a one-armed tomahawk dunk on Carr to put Florida back on top.

Florida ended the half on a 7-2 run and led 36-32 at halftime. Both sides struggled to shoot the ball in the first half as the sides each shot 39% from the field.

Early in the second half, Kugel caught a full-length pass and hit a euro step for an open layup to put Florida up seven points — the Gators’ largest lead of the game. 

Freshman forward Alex Condon hit a layup as UF pushed its run to 7-0 early in the second half. 

The sides traded baskets as Carr drew contact on a made layup, and his free throw to complete the three-point play and make it a four-point Florida lead. 

Wake Forest guard Hunter Sallis launched a deep 2-pointer to cut the lead to just two. 

Carr caught it down and threw down a commanding dunk to tie it at 52 apiece. Gators graduate student guard Zyon Pullin hit a pair of free throws to restore the Florida lead. 

Carr caught the ball at the top of the arc and knocked down an open 3-pointer to give Wake Forest its first lead of the second half, up 57-54. Kugel responded with a teardrop on the other end to make it a one-point game.

Demon Deacons guard Parker Friedrichsen launched a triple with a hand in his face to make it 60-56 midway through the second half. 

Kugel found space and buried a triple to cut the deficit to three. A foul was called on Carr away from the shooter, so UF got the ball back, and Samuel scored down low amidst contact to make it a one-point game.

Clayton missed the tying-3-point attempt, but Samuel snatched the offensive board and kicked it out to Kugel at the top of the arc. Kugel caught it and drained the three to tie the game at 64 apiece with five minutes to go in the game.

The two teams then traded baskets to keep it tied. 

Wake Forest Cameron Hildreth drove to the cup for a layup. On the next possession, the Demon Deacons defense doubled Kugel and forced a turnover that led to a layup. 

The 5-0 run pushed Wake Forest’s lead to 71-66 late. 

Sallis caught a pass over the top and scored a three-point play to stretch the deficit late. Costly turnovers doomed Florida late as UF fell to Wake Forest 82-71.

The Gators will return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for their next game to take on the Merrimack Warriors at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+. 

Contact Jackson Reyes at Follow him on Twitter @JacksnReyes.

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Jackson Reyes

Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.

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