Florida had their chances but ultimately couldn’t grasp victory as they fell to the Virginia Cavaliers by a score of 73-70. The Gators had two opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final 30 seconds of the game but both possessions ended with turnovers from Walter Clayton. First, it was a trap near Florida’s bench that he tried to make a difficult pass out of and the second wasn’t much more than a pure ball handling error. Florida was led in scoring by Will Richard, but their most impactful player was arguably Micah Handlogten who finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks before fouling out.
Florida never got much of a rhythm of this game, and the final two offensive possessions were somewhat of a microcosm of Florida’s evening. They struggled with turnovers all night, finishing 16–many of which came from Virginia’s double teams on the block or from their hard hedges on pick and rolls. These are both pillars of coach Tony Bennett’s defense and were expected by the Gators, though their execution against the tactics was lacking. Walter Clayton (5), Riley Kugel (4), and Tyrese Samuel (4) were the worst offenders in the turnover category, and there will be plenty of film to show where they could have made better reads out of Virginia’s defensive pressure. On the other side of things Virginia only had 6 turnovers playing a steady, methodical brand of basketball which only illuminated the turnover issues from Florida.
After taking only 16 three-point attempts in their season opener against Loyola MD the Gators increased their total to 25 attempts though unfortunately they weren’t falling as the Gators only hit 7 of them–good for 28%. Going back to Florida’s secret scrimmages the Gators haven’t had a single good game shooting the ball yet and while that’s still only two official games and two secret scrimmages–it’s a concerning trend that’s starting to develop. Florida also struggled from two-point range with Riley Kugel and Will Richard missing a number of layups at the rim which was an issue that hurt both of them a year ago. Coming off a season where the Gators struggled offensively there are signs of improvement from a schematic standpoint but the team lacked finish both inside and from beyond the arc.
Pounding The Glass
At this point you’re probably thinking “if the Gators couldn’t shoot and turned the ball over a ton, how did they stay in the game and put up 70 points?” The answer–offensive rebounding. The Gators were absolute monsters on the offensive glass with 21 offensive rebounds–a number that matched Virginia’s 21 defensive rebounds, making it a coin flip as to who would get the ball after each Florida miss. All these extra possessions allowed the Gators to stay in the game while their offense struggled, and it’s something that could be a major strength moving forward this season if they have the same kind of offensive struggles the team had a year ago. Leading the charge on the offensive glass was Micah Handlogten who had 8 offensive rebounds, nearly single handedly keeping the Gators in this game. Handlogten ended up fouling out the game with several minutes remaining and if he didn’t he may have gotten an extra possession or two more for the Gators.
This was a disappointing output for the Gators who lacked offensive rhythm and poise. Offensively there weren’t enough actions to stress Virginia’s defense and the execution against the Cavaliers’ defense looks that were to be expected simply wasn’t there. Florida had a lot of offensive issues last season and brought in a lot of talent to address that, but you wouldn’t see the improvements in Friday’s game. The bright spot was Micah Handlogten and the Gators’ offensive rebounding onslaught that allowed them to stay competitive on a night where not a lot was working. If the Gators continue that kind of rebounding effort while improving their offensive efficiency they could be a good place.