Playing a Richmond team that has shown an ability to slow down games and win with a crisp offensive attack, the Florida Gators clamped down on defense, dominated the glass, and withstood every run to come away with a convincing 87-76 win in the Orange Bowl Classic. The Gators got up to a double digit lead in the first half and while Richmond had several 5-0 and 7-0 runs Florida never lost composure and continued to keep pressure on and it resulted in a solid win.
Let’s go through key statistical categories. In terms of field goal percentage, Florida was at 45%, and Richmond was at 43%. From three, Richmond was 11-22 (50%), and Florida was 9-29 (31%). Richmond only had 8 turnovers, and Florida had 12. If you were to look at those key statistical indicators, you would think this was going to be a close game–but it wasn’t. Why is that? As has been the case in most Florida games this season, it was the battle on the glass going heavily in the Gators’ favor. Florida was +19 on the boards Saturday while having 13 offensive rebounds to only 5 for the Spiders. Even when Florida’s offense wasn’t creating great shots, their athletic, long big men kept possessions alive with rebounding and the Spiders simply couldn’t keep up with the number of shots the Gators were able to get. Florida knows where their bread is buttered and continues to play big lineups and continues to send multiple players to the offensive glass and it has drastically raised the floor of this team from recent years.
One of the huge advantages the Gators had in this game was the frontcourt as Richmond isn’t particularly big or physical and Tyrese Samuel took advantage early scoring nearly every time he got the ball in the paint and finishing with a 18 point, 14 rebound triple double. With Micah Handlogten back to a full minute load after an ankle injury Samuel got to play all of his minutes at power forward and he had a huge size advantage over whoever was matched up with him and that made for an easy night on the glass and when it came to scoring inside. To make things even sweeter, Samuel stepped out behind the arc and knocked down a three-pointer to make his big game even more impressive.
It was looking like Richmond was going to potentially claw back into the game down only a couple of possessions at one point in the second half, but that’s when Will Richard caught fire. He hit three three-pointers in rapid succession before also adding some buckets as a cutter where he also finished through contact. Entering Saturday’s game Richard was shooting only 30% from three, a major dip from last year, but he looked to regain some form with this hot shooting streak finishing 3-7 from deep and leading the Gators in scoring with 21 points.
This was a quiet, professional win for the Gators. This game lacked any major drama–exactly what you want when you’re the favored team playing against a solid mid-major opponent who can catch high-major teams if they’re sleeping. The Gators played a solid defensive game against what can be a very potent offense, and even when shots weren’t falling on the other end they were able to manufacture points with offensive rebounding. With how this Florida roster is built, it seems like it is going to be very hard for them to drop any major upset games–now they just need to work on getting to the point where they can win against elite opponents.