Florida Escapes New York With 66-56 Win Over West Virginia

It certainly wasn’t pretty but the Gators were able to escape New York with a gritty 66-56 win over West Virginia, a team more than comfortable with playing the game in the trenches under coach Bob Huggins. Florida was exceptional on defense in holding the Mountaineers to 56 points and it’s a good thing they were locked in on that end of the floor because of the shooting woes they had themselves. KeVaughn Allen was the leading scorer with 19 points while Andrew Nembhard provided 6 crisp assists when the team really needed them. The Gators now have a chance to prepare for a matchup with Michigan State on Saturday.

Rock Fight

Neither team had any offensive rhythm going as Florida was 16-48 from the field (33%) while West Virginia was 19-64 (29.7%). Florida’s defense was tremendous in shutting down the Mountaineers, particularly on the inside, and it should be noted that West Virginia came into this game as the 18th best scoring squad in the country so this was no small feat for the Gators.

No Such Thing As A Free Throw

I guess it makes sense in one of the most expensive cities in the world that a free throw wasn’t free at Madison Square Gardens with the Gators going was falling that the free throws would struggle too but this was a concerning night for Florida as they went 28-46 (60.9%). You could chalk it up to the venue being different than normal but the Gators are going to have to hit free throws on the road in some tough gyms going forward. And hey, if you’re hitting Wall Street…

Buy Stock In…

The Gators’ 2018 recruiting class. Andrew Nembhard was good with 7 points and 6 assists though he struggled to finish inside again (becoming a reoccurring theme with him), Noah Locke played excellent defense on the perimeter, and Keyontae Johnson matched every physical challenge on his way to 3-3 shooting. This group was good tonight and showed the competitive fire they possess.

Sell Stock In…

Jalen Hudson. I mean, if he has any value left. He was 0-3 in 7 minutes tonight, putting up a couple tough shots and missing a few rotations defensively. I’m not sure what’s going on with Hudson and I’m not sure if he’ll ever get back to his form from last season but the Gators are going to need him to contribute in some fashion if they’re going to reach their ceiling.

Unsung Heroes

They didn’t get talked about on the broadcast much but Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes were monsters on the defensive end and I think they deserve a ton of credit for this win. They were instrumental in making Sagaba Konate’s night an awful one (2-10 from the field) and locking down Lamont West (0-6) and they fought all night long in the paint. This was a great defensive game for the Gators and to me it all started with the frontcourt and they deserve massive props.

Final Word

As much as this game was horrendous on the eyes at some points it’s still a 10-point win over a really good opponent that was 13th in the preseason AP poll and will likely knock off a lot of good teams this season. This could be a really good resume win for the Gators on a neutral floor. Yes, the offense looked bad, but the Gators showed a whole lot of compete and worked their tails off to make up for the lack of offensive execution.

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Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.