The Gators entered their rivalry matchup with Florida State looking to get started on the right foot.
UF players like junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. and graduate student forward Tyrese Samuel got whatever they wanted in the first half as Florida poured it on against its in-state rival en route to a 36-9 lead in the opening 12 minutes of play.
The Gators entered a brief lull in the second half but still cruised to their third straight win against the Seminoles.
The Florida Gators (3-1) took down the FSU Seminoles (2-1) 89-68 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Friday night. Eight different Gators scored for UF as Clayton led the way with 19 points on 8-15 shooting.
“That was a statement game for our guys tonight,” said UF head coach Todd Golden.
Four UF players scored in double figures, including 15 points from graduate student guard Zyon Pullin, who made his UF debut. The team shot 51.7% from the field and 38.9% from deep.
Samuel drew a foul and knocked down a pair of free throws to begin the game.
He hit two more free throws later in the game. Junior guard Will Richard continued the streak of shots from the charity stripe after he drew a flagrant foul on a fastbreak.
Clayton scored the first non-free throw for Florida. He attacked the rim and stretched around a defender for a layup to give UF an early 8-2 lead.
Clayton knocked down a triple from the left wing later for UF’s first 3-pointer. Sophomore guard Riley Kugel got going with a three from the right wing to make it a 10-point game early. Florida’s defense stifled the Noles early as FSU started 2-8 from the field.
Kugel brought the ball up and drilled a step-back 3-pointer to add to an 11-1 UF run. The Seminoles failed to record a field goal for nearly four minutes during the run.
Pullin missed a layup attempt, but sophomore center Micah Handlogten tipped it in as the lead swelled to 16.
Freshman forward Thomas Haugh and Clayton knocked down back-to-back triples as the lead ballooned to 22. Florida State finally ended the UF run with a 3-pointer from FSU forward Cameron Corhen.
Richard immediately responded as he drove the baseline and reached around for a reverse layup.
Pullin had the ball at the top of the arc, took a dribble and stepped to the left to generate space, and knocked down a triple for his first points as a Gator to make it 34-9. He followed it up with a layup down low as UF continued to light it up against the Noles.
The Noles went on a 6-0 run to try and keep the deficit to less than 20 points. However, Samuel slammed down a putback dunk to make it a 21-point game.
The Gators continued to get whatever they wanted as they went on a 7-0 run.
Florida forced another three-minute scoring drought for FSU as UF’s offense made 10 of its 12 shots over the span. Pullin pushed the pace after he caught the ball at halfcourt and raced to the rim for a layup.
Freshman forward Alex Condon came up with a big block, but he was assessed for a technical for contact on the play, leading to two Noles’ points from the charity stripe.
FSU finished the first half 1-10 as the team failed to get anything going offensively. Kugel drew a shooting foul and knocked down two of his three free throw attempts to make it 52-22 at the break.
“Definitely, the first half was the best half by far all season,” Golden said. “. I just thought we played at an insanely high level. Just really proud of our effort.”
The Gators shot an efficient 64% from the field and 50% from deep in the first half. Clayton led the way with 12 points as eight different Florida players scored in the first half.
Pullin pointed to his team’s play defensively to helping them jumping out to the big lead.
“Just being locked in,” Pullin said.”First, on the defensive side of things, getting stops. That let us get out there and play.”
The UF defense also held the Seminoles to just 27% from the field in the opening half.
Samuel worked himself into open positions down low and scored UF’s first four points of the second half.
The Gators forwards struggled with foul trouble early in the second half. Samuel and Handlogten sat at four fouls each within the first five minutes of the second half. Condon had three fouls.
“It definitely hurt us in the second half it made us less aggressive,” Golden said. “We survived it.”
Florida continued its dominance on offense as Kugel found Condon inside for a layup to keep the deficit at more than 30.
The Gators entered a three-minute-long scoring drought midway through the second half as the Noles tried to chip away at the Gators’ lead. FSU attacked inside for layups as the Seminoles went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 23 points.
Clayton grabbed the loose ball on defense and threw it upcourt to Samuel, who dunked it to end Florida’s scoring drought. Clayton continued to keep Florida in front by more than 20 after he drained a triple from the left wing.
The Gators entered a cold streak offensively and made just two of their 10 field goal attempts midway through the half. Richard caught a pass in the corner and buried a 3-pointer to keep UF in control despite the streak of misses.
Condon fouled out with five minutes left in the game, but Florida still managed to stave off a Noles’ comeback attempt.
Tempers flared at the end of the game. Noles forward De’Ante Green was called for a flagrant two, and forward Cam’Ron Fletcher was ejected for leaving the bench during an altercation.
The Seminoles outscored UF 46-37 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to dig themselves out of the hole they created in the first half.
Florida will play its next game against Pittsburgh for the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in Brooklyn, New York. The game will tip off at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and be broadcast on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
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.