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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Florida dismantled by Ole Miss 103-85 in first road SEC matchup

Junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. and Graduate Student Zyon Pullin led the Gators with 23 and 18 points in the loss

Graduate student guard Zyon Pullin drives with the ball in the Gators' 89-68 win against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, November 17, 2023.
Graduate student guard Zyon Pullin drives with the ball in the Gators' 89-68 win against the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, November 17, 2023.

Ole Miss senior guard Matthew Murrell dropped his defender on a 3-point shot fake and stared him down as he lost his balance. Then, he wasted no time rising up for a 3-pointer in hopes of it being the dagger.

As the Rebels’ leading scorer watched the shot swoosh through the net, the home crowd watched their lead on the scoreboard grow to 20 points with no sign of slowing down.

After holding a double-digit lead for nearly the entire second half, Ole Miss cleared their bench as the Florida men’s basketball team watched the opposing walk-ons dribble out the remaining seconds of the game.

The Rebels (14-1, 1-1 SEC) defeated the Gators (10-5, 0-2 SEC) 103-85 at the Sandy and John Black Pavilion in Oxford, Mississippi, Wednesday night.

The matchup was competitive early with seven lead changes in the first 5:58 of play. Junior guard Will Richard opened the game for Florida banging home a 3-pointer off of an Ole Miss turnover.

Rebels guard Allen Flanigan tied the game as he slashed down the lane on a fast break and scooped in a layup to knot the score at 10 apiece.

The Gators recaptured the lead at 17-12 when junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. pulled up from the 3-point line on a fastbreak for a milestone basket. The Iona transfer entered Wednesday’s matchup with 991 career points and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark with 13:38 left in the half.

Florida came into the game leading the SEC in rebounding margin yet failed to snatch an offensive rebound in the first eight minutes of play. 

Just as the Gators seemed to be settling into a grove in their first SEC road battle of the 2024 campaign, Ole Miss put its foot on the gas. The Rebels caught fire and went on a 14-3 run over five minutes of play.

The Rebels saw their lead grow as large as nine after back-to-back 3-pointers from Jaylen Murray gave Ole Miss a 29-20 edge heading into a media timeout.

The Gators desperately needed to stop the bleeding. After the break, a huge alley-oop dunk by graduate student Tyrese Samuel halted the Rebels momentum. Clayton Jr. followed through on the next Florida possession with a 3-pointer that hit nothing but net. 

Although Florida slowed down the Rebels' run, they seemed to have no answer for Ole Miss senior forward Jaemyn Brakefield. He led the way offensively early in the first half for the Rebels with 12 points while shooting 5-7 from the floor at the 3:38 mark.

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Florida’s leading scorer led the way as the two teams traded baskets late in the first half. Clayton Jr. converted a mid-range bucket to keep the score close at 38-32 with 2:25 left in the first half.

The Gators were effective from the free throw line down the stretch of the half as graduate student guard Zyon Pullin and freshman forward Alex Condon each knocked down back-to-back free throws to cut the Ole Miss lead to just two.

The Rebels responded finishing the first half on a 6-2 run led by Flanigan and Murrell.

Freshman forward Thomas Haugh came off of the bench for Golden and drained a pair of free throws with 37 seconds left as the Gators trailed 44-40 heading into halftime.

Ole Miss came out of the break firing offensively while creating havoc on defense with full-court pressure. A costly turnover by Samuel led to a fastbreak jumper for Murrell, but Samuel was quick to respond with a strong finish underneath the basket.

Murrell hit a 3-pointer as the Gators saw their deficit grow to 65-50 with 14:02 left to play. Pullin then drained a pair of free throws on the following possession to keep UF competitive.

Though, the Gators had no answer for the Rebels offensive attack in the second half. An alley-oop dunk thrown down by senior forward Jamarion Sharp gave the Rebels a 67-52 advantage. 

As Florida tried its best to not let the Ole Miss lead grow any larger, the duo of Brakefield and Murrell dismantled Florida’s defense in the second half.

The teammates combined for 51 of the team’s 103 points in the game.

Ole Miss kept their foot on the gas and went on a 7-0 run until Richard made a second-chance layup with 11:45 left in the game. 

Perhaps a glimpse of hope was left for Golden’s squad as Clayton Jr. drove to the basket for a tough finish to cut the Ole Miss lead to 16.

However, the Rebels slammed the door shut on any comeback hopes that the Gators had, responding with a 5-0 run led by an aggressive dunk by Sharp that gave his team a 20-point lead with 7:56 left in the game.

The Gators went on a 2:23 scoring drought until sophomore guard Denzel Aberdeen stepped up to the charity stripe and knocked down a pair of free throws with 7:03 left to play.

The Gators also struggled from the 3-point line in Wednesday’s matchup, shooting just 29% while giving up 21 points on the fastbreak defensively.

Clayton Jr. carried Florida with 23 points but it was no match for the Rebels’ offensive attack.

A made layup by Handlogten cut the Rebels lead to 99-81 before they were quick to respond with a Brakefield layup with 1:34 left to play.

Soon after, Florida watched the Ole Miss walk-ons check into the game, as the clock winded down in UF’s 22-point loss.

UF will continue its SEC schedule Saturday, matching up with Arkansas at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

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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