Desperately needing a win after three consecutive losses, the Gators came out with some fire and determination and were able to knock off the Cincinnati Bearcats by the score of 66-60. Both the Gators and Bearcats have shown the ability to put up gargantuan point totals having both scored over 100 points multiple times this season, but tonight’s game was a display of defensive intensity for both squads. Though the point total was low tonight it wasn’t because of sloppy offense as both teams shot above 40% from the field, but good defense from both sides that forced the opposing team to use a large portion of the shot clock looking for a good look at the rim. Egor Koulechov led the way for the Gators with 21 points and 7 rebounds, while Cane Broome was the lead man for Bearcats scoring 15 and adding 3 rebounds from the guard spot. The Gators now look ahead to Clemson in the Orange Bowl Classic as they look to build some momentum going into the conference season.
After allowing career nights to opposing post players multiple times this season, the Gators extremely improved their interior defense tonight. Going against one of the nation’s best frontcourts in Kyle Washington and Gary Clark many thought Florida would be in tough, but Cincinnati’s star duo was kept to a manageable combined 20 points. Though Clark rebounded well with 14 boards, Washington only managed to reel in 4 rebounds and also had 4 turnovers. Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes did a good job of working to hold position, not biting on pump fakes, and getting their hands up to contest shots (Stone had 3 blocks and Hayes had 2). There was improved team defense in the paint as well, as Stone and Hayes were able to take away the middle of the floor from the offensive player, knowing that there was help side defense coming from a teammate should the offensive player spin towards the baseline. The improved interior defense is extremely encouraging moving forward and hopefully they can continue to shore up the defense as a whole.
After a rough performance against Loyola-Chicago, Egor Koulechov had a great bounce-back performance scoring 21 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. He really showcased his diverse offensive skillset by scoring on the block, in the midrange, and from beyond the arc. After shooting a lot of tough, ill-advised shots these last few games I think he showed a lot better discipline with shot selection, and this better shot selection led to a very efficient shooting night.
Unlike Egor Koulechov, KeVaughn Allen couldn’t bounce back after a tough night against Loyola-Chicago. Going 1-5 from the field for 2 points, Allen couldn’t get loose for an open look whether in transition, moving off of the ball, or coming off a screen. Even though his shot isn’t falling, it is important to note that he provides above average defense and can still add value when he isn’t scoring. Only taking 5 field goal attempts might seem passive, but I think it showed maturity to pass on mediocre shots when he knew teammates like Koulechov, Chiozza, and Hudson were having better nights.
Making it Uncomfortable
One of the traits of last year’s Florida team was the ability to make other teams uncomfortable with the ball. This year’s Gators squad showed flashes of that tonight as they forced the Bearcats into 21 turnovers, a number that might have given Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin (well known for hating turnovers) a migraine. Forcing turnovers is going to be huge for the Gators, because they aren’t incredible at playing defense straight up and they might have to be aggressive in forcing turnovers to compensate those struggles. The Gators also don’t get a ton of offensive rebounds, so forcing turnovers is the only way they can get extra possessions.
This has to go to Egor Koulechov, though I was a big fan of Chris Chiozza tonight as he had a well-rounded 15 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. So far this season Egor Koulechov has constantly been placed in tough matchups due to Florida’s roster limitations, so the nights he can go for 21 and 7 are huge for the team and incredibly impressive given the players he is forced to match up with.
The Gators take on Clemson on December 16. The Gators are currently 0-2 against the ACC losing to Duke and Florida State, so this would be a nice win to get. Playing in the ACC, Clemson is certain to have a good RPI so this would be a great win for the Gators, while also being a loss they need to avoid.
I’ll be very interested to see what happens to the Gators in next week’s AP Poll. The losses to Florida State and Loyola-Chicago really hurt them, but this win over #17 Cincinnati likely saved them from completely falling out of the top 25.
What did you think of Florida’s performance tonight? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.