Gators Get Blown Out By Knights In NIT

Florida’s time in the NIT was short lived, getting blasted in the opening round by the UCF Knights by a score of 67-49. With the opening rounds of the NIT played at the home arena of the higher seed this game took place in Gainesville with the Rowdy Reptiles giving the Gators some energy at the start of the game but very quickly the team ran out steam–and ultimately got run out of their own gym. This loss finishes Florida’s season and gives them a losing record at 16-17, also dropping them to 74th in KenPom. 


Ending Strong


Riley Kugel played like he was on a mission the last few weeks of the season, getting himself into NBA Draft conversations with his blend of athleticism, creativity, and size. In Florida’s final game of the season a lot of players didn’t show up but he did, finishing with 13 points which led the Gators. It’s unknown whether this will be the last look fans will have of Kugel, who said he didn’t have an answer to the question of whether he’d be a Gator in the postseason press conference. If this was his last game in orange and blue he ended his college career with an explosive final month, though sadly the team around him wasn’t able to parlay those performances into wins.


Same Story


Florida’s offense that has struggled all year struggled once again to end the season, shooting 32% from the field on their way to a measly 49 points. Even worse than their missed shots were their 18 turnovers as they struggled to get through their offensive progressions. UCF was extremely aggressive taking the Gators out of their actions and when they tried to force their way into their regular patterns there was a Knight waiting there to take the ball away. The Gators finished the season 140th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, an extremely disappointing mark for a team that has some offensively talented players.


Same Story, Part Two


Defense went from being a deficiency in the first half of the season to a strength for much of conference play but when it comes to guarding teams that run a lot of actions the Gators have always struggled and that was the case once again playing against a methodical UCF team. The Knights were able to pick apart Florida’s defense and take advantage of mismatches all around the floor ending the game shooting 53% from the field. Future NBA first round pick Taylor Hendricks was particularly impressive finishing with 17 points on only 8-11 shooting, getting pretty much whatever he wanted against the Gators before taking a breather in the final minutes of garbage time. The Knights were also able to take advantage of another problem the Gators have–defensive rebounding–grabbing 10 offensive rebounds.


Final Thoughts


When Florida lost in the SEC Tournament there was a lot of chatter that the Gators wouldn’t play in the NIT because the players didn’t have any interest in partaking in it. However, Golden extinguished those rumors quickly, saying that the Gators would in fact compete in the NIT. Fast forward to Wednesday night, and the players played like they didn’t want to be there. The Gators were sloppy, slow, and rather uninterested looking on both sides of the floor, and it makes you wonder whether the Gators should have played in this game to begin with. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season, and while it was great to get one final home game in the O’Dome it will be a tough last look for the players that will be leaving the program.

Eric Fawcett
Eric is a basketball coach and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work has been found at NBA international properties, 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 @ericfawcett_.