Few words describe Tuesday night’s game between the Florida Gators and West Virginia Mountaineers better than just plain ugly.
While it won’t go down as one of Florida’s most impressive games of the season, it came out with a win in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden to improve to a 5-3 record.
Noah Locke put the Gators up right from the start as he drained a three less than 30 seconds into play. From there, Florida took a 10-4 lead into the first media timeout.
The Mountaineers cut the deficit back to three points midway into the half despite a span with five turnovers in five minutes. Then, the Gators used a 12-2 run to go up by 13.
With the way West Virginia was playing, Florida probably should have been leading by much more than that.
Instead of taking complete control of the game, the Gators allowed the Mountaineers to go on a run to end the half as they did not score a single point in the final 4:02. And just like that, the 13-point advantage fell all the way to three points as Florida took a 30-27 lead to the locker room.
Those late first half struggles carried over into the second half. The Mountaineers used a pair of dunks to take their very first lead of the game 31-30 with 16:36 remaining.
Going back to the final minutes of the first half, Florida had missed nine straight shots and four straight free throw attempts while West Virginia went on a 13-0 run.
Somehow, despite all of Florida’s offensive issues during that time, West Virginia’s lone advantage of the night would be very short lived.
KeVaughn Allen started the resurgence on defense with a block, and then he found himself at the free throw line. The Gators were not good there most of the game, but he made both of his to go back up 32-31.
Then, Mike Okauru got a block on the other end and Allen came up big once again as he hit a jumper on the fast break.
The Mountaineers kept it close for a few minutes, but they had scored just six points by the halfway point of the half, and an 18-2 run by the Gators made it 48-33 with 8:02 left in the game.
West Virginia tried to make it a game again, cutting Florida’s lead back to 10 points with just under four minutes to go. It came as close 8 points in the final minute, but the Gators were able to make enough free throws in the end to hold the Mountaineers off and win 66-56.
Florida and West Virginia both struggled to take care of the basketball in the game, with a combined 36 turnovers. While that is not a pleasing stat for the Gators, the real teller of the game was Florida’s 22-8 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Gators continued to be abysmal at the foul line, but again, made the ones that mattered late in the game. Florida finished making 28 of 46 free throw attempts as West Virginia totaled 30 fouls in the game. The Gators weren’t a ton better in that area with 22.
While this is a game Florida likely wants to forget from an execution standpoint, a bright spot from the night was Allen’s production. He led the team and scored a season-high 19 points (5-for-13 from the field, 3-for-7 from deep and 6-for-9 from the line).
It was a positive sign to finally see him putting up some shots and getting some confidence going.
Behind him, Keith Stone had 9 points and 8 boards and Keyontae Johnson finished with 9 points as well.
Andrew Nembhard led the Gators with 6 assists, but he did finally end his run of games without giving up the basketball as he accounted for two of Florida’s 15 turnovers.
In the end, Florida came away with a victory, and even if it wasn’t a typical West Virginia team, it is a win the Gators needed and one that could help down the road.
With that said, Florida has a lot of work to do and little time to do it with 10th ranked Michigan State coming to town this Saturday.