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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Gators down Bobcats in final non-conference matchup

Florida’s offense surged, putting up 52 points in the first half

Junior guard Will Richard rises up for a dunk in the Gators' 89-68 win against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.
Junior guard Will Richard rises up for a dunk in the Gators' 89-68 win against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.

Florida junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. brought the ball up the court with 9:20 left in the game. He let an alley-oop pass sail in the air as sophomore guard Riley Kugel took flight and snatched the pass with one hand above the rim.

The Stephen C. O’Connell Center erupted with cheers as the Gators cruised to a 33-point lead in the second half.

With conference play on the horizon, the team displayed their talents and offered a small glimpse of the team’s potential. 

The Florida Gators (10-3) defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats (9-4) in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Saturday afternoon 97-72.

Junior guard Will Richard opened the game offensively for the Gators with a 3-pointer. Richard continued to have the hot hand early for Florida as he sank another 3-point field goal assisted by Clayton Jr. to give Florida an 11-5 lead early into the game. 

Clayton Jr. put an emphasis on shutting down the Bobcats offense to start the game. He blocked two shots in the first 5 minutes of play. 

Graduate student guard Matt Balanc carried the Quinnipiac offense early. After being fouled on a 3-point attempt, Balanc drained three-straight free throws to cut Florida’s lead to 12-8. 

The Gators were in a solid rhythm offensively to start the game. Graduate student guard Zyon Pullin showed off his mid-range jumper in the first half as he tallied eight points for Florida at the 12:56 mark.

Florida sophomore guard Riley Kugel came off the bench for Florida in the first half. Kugel drove to the basket and was fouled to put the team into the bonus. Kugel stepped to the line and made two-straight free throws to extend the Gators lead to 30-19.

Qunnipiac refused to go down without a fight in the first half. Fifth year forward Daemar Kelly made a jumper to cut Florida’s lead to seven.

The Gators continued to apply pressure on the fast break to enable their offense. Sophomore guard Denzel Aberdeen dished a pass to Richard for an-and-one layup that forced a Quinnipiac timeout with 6:29 left to play in the first half of action.

Graduate student guard Julian Rishwain came off the bench and gave his team a spark on offense as he drained a 3-point jumper on his first shot attempt of the game.

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Florida’s defense swarmed the Bobcats with three minutes left to play in the first half to force a shot clock violation. They carried the momentum into their next offensive possession as Pullin pulled up from the 3-point line to drill a jumper assisted by Samuel. 

The teams traded buckets down the stretch of the first half. One coming from Clayton Jr. as a between the legs bounce pass to Pullin for a 3-pointer that hit nothing but the net. 

Clayton Jr. continued to manipulate the Quinnipiac defense on their next offensive possession as he shielded his defender inside the paint and was fouled on his shot attempt. Clayton Jr. made back-to-back free throws to extend Florida’s lead to 38-25.

The Gators broke the game open at the end of the first half. The team went on an impressive 19-4 run to close out the half giving them their largest lead of the contest at 52-19.

Two turnovers to start the second half was not the start that head coach Todd Golden was looking for. The Bobcats took advantage and went on a 5-2 run with 18:32 left on the clock.

Sophomore center Micah Handlogten showed his athleticism on the following possession as he crashed the boards for a put-back dunk that energized his team and the crowd. 

A huge alley-oop dunk by Richard was called off as a technical foul for slapping the backboard. However, this did not slow down his scoring mentality. Richard scored back-to-back buckets on the next two possessions that allowed the Gators to settle into a rhythm in the second half.

The Bobcats began using a full-court press defense that caused the Gators a bit of discomfort. The havoc created by Quinnipiac made it difficult for Florida’s guards to get the ball up the court.

Kugel slowed down Quinnipiac’s momentum after getting fouled on a baseline drive and knocking down two free throws that gave the Gators a 69-47 lead with 13:13 left in the second half.

Sophomore guard Denzel Aberdeen came off the bench to give Florida a positive contribution offensively. Aberdeen put up a floater over his defender to add his name to the scoring sheet.

The Florida front court was too much for Quinnipiac to handle Saturday. Samuel snatched a miss off the rim from Aberdeen and slammed a dunk that ignited the crowd.

Moreover, Sameul went on to achieve a career milestone after a fast break dunk allowed him to eclipse the 1,000-point career scoring mark and gave Florida a 90-58 lead with 5:25 left in the game.

UF freshman forward Thomas Haugh had a solid game coming off the bench for the Gators. Haugh scored eight points shooting 3-5 from the field and snatched seven rebounds in the game.

The Gators became too much for Quinnipiac to handle down the stretch of the second half. Although the Bobcats showed fight as the game came down to its final minutes, Florida was able to hang on to their lead to come away with a 97-72 victory.

Florida will begin their conference schedule Jan. 6 as they host the Kentucky Wildcats. Tip-off is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and the game will be aired on ESPN.

Contact Max at mtucker@alligator.org. Follow him on X @MaxTuckerUF25.

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Max Tucker

Max Tucker is a junior transfer student at UF. After obtaining his A.A. in Journalism from Santa Fe College in 2023, he chose further his education at Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. Max is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a specialization in sports and media. He enjoys golfing and going to the beach with his friends in his free time. Max will be covering the Gators Golf teams this Fall for The Alligator.


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