The Florida Gators basketball team finished the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun going 1-1, after beating the St. Joseph’s Hawks 74-63 on Saturday, then falling to No. 21 Purdue 85-70 on Sunday evening.
The Gators opened the tournament against St. Joseph’s looking still a little hung over from their recent 104-54 rout of North Carolina A&T.
It was the first time Florida had faced the Hawks since December 7, 1967 and St. Joe’s looked ready to make up for lost time.
Florida went down 6-2 early and gathered two fouls just as fast.
It wasn’t until around the 13-minute mark of the first half that the Gators pace of play started to pick up to where they want it.
As the buzzer sounded for halftime, point guard Chris Chiozza (7 points, 4 assists) sunk one to give the Gators a 34-33 lead heading to the locker room.
The second half is when things really started to get interesting versus St. Joe’s. With 6:22 left in the game, Florida went on a 21-4 run that took some creative shots, careful maneuvering (the Gators already had five players with three fouls) and pure grit.
“We stayed together when adversity hit,” forward Dorian Finney-Smith told Gatorzone.com. “In the huddle, we talked about pulling together and just went out and got stops when we needed to.”
Doe Doe finished with double-digit points, 13 in all, and six rebounds. The Gators also got another double-double out of sophomore Devin Robinson (12 points, 10 rebounds) off the bench, his second of the season; and Kasey Hill joined Finney-Smith as leading scorer with 13.
Hill really got the ball rolling in the second half, hitting a three when the Florida Gators had been down 59-53.
Seven points later Florida had a 60-59 lead but it wasn’t long before they found themselves back tied at 62.
An assist from DFS to big man John Egbunu for the slam sent them back on a run and the team took it from there.
It was a grind, per head coach Mike White’s words, and the Florida Gators basketball team was going to need to grind once again as they prepared to take on No. 21 Purdue in the Tournament’s Final.
The Gators went big for their second game in the Tournament and the matchup against Purdue (their first ranked opponent); it was easy to see why as the Boilermakers had two athletes over seven feet tall. It’s not often you’ll see John Egbunu get outmanned, but that’s what happened many a time when he was against Boilermaker’s Tyler Haas.
It didn’t take long for Purdue to jump out to a substantial lead and at the under 12 timeout in the first half, they lead the Gators 20-12.
The Boilersmaker’s had a seven-point when John Egbunu took over for a period, beginning with a layup over the larger Haas, while also garnering the and-1. Picking up the extra point at the charity stripe, Egbunu’s possession cut it to a four-point lead.
Down on the other end of the floor Big John flew in like Superman to swat away a shot that led to another Egbunu basket on the Gators end, as he scored five in a 7-0 run for Florida and the lead was cut to two. Egbunu ended the night leading all teams in scoring with 19.
Despite it only being a five point game at half, it wouldn’t be enough, as the Gators bench, which has been its strong suit in many games, was outscored 28-15.
The bench almost seemed to provide a spark when point guard Chris Chiozza came in for Hill at the midway point in the second half and the Gators offensive flow picked up.
But the defense wasn’t enough to shut down a Purdue team that channeled Macklemore and lived downtown, going 11-26 from three compared to the Gators 6-20.
Dorian Finney-Smith was Florida’s life blood, as Mike White has asked him to be, posting 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists—leading the Gators in those last two categories.
For 7:33 of the second half, Purdue held Florida to one field goal, until a quick back-to-back Chiozza 3 and Finney-Smith layup with just over a minute left tried to make it more respectable.
In the end Purdue’s chaos outpaced and outmatched the Florida Gators in nearly every facet as the Boilermakers won 85-70 and the Gators drop to 3-1.
Florida now travels home for a Wednesday matchup against Vermont, the first of a Thanksgiving sandwich.
Tip off is set for 3pm in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and can be seen on the SEC Network.