The Florida Gators improved to 3-1 on the season following a dominating 89-68 victory over Florida State on Friday night inside the O’Connell Center. The victory marks the third straight victory over Florida State, improving to 2-0 against the Seminoles under Todd Golden.
BIG FIRST HALF
The Gators raced to 52-22 halftime lead behind good ball movement, efficient shooting, and dominant defense.
“Definitely the first half is the best half by far, but I think that was an incredibly high level of basketball right there,” Todd Golden said on the 1st half of play. “I thought on both ends, you know we shot 64 [percent] from the field in the first half, 50 from three. Held them to 26 six percent from the field, up 52-22 at halftime. I just thought we played at an insanely high level, and that’s what we have kind of seen at times from our group in the preseason and just really proud of our effort.”
FOUL TROUBLE IN 2ND HALF
Florida found themselves in foul trouble after halftime, which helped FSU outscore Florida 46-37 in the final two minutes of play. At one point the Gators had four players with four fouls.
“Obviously in the second half it was a little back and forth, a lot of fouls, a lot of free throws, both ways got a little chippy, which you know, can happen in a rivalry game,” Golden said. “It never got under 20 and that was a statement game for us tonight. I am really proud of our guys for the way they played.”
The Gators stuck with an eight-man rotation of Walter Clayton, Riley Kugel, Will Richard, Tyrese Samuel, Micah Handlogten, Zyon Pullin, Alex Condon, and Thomas Haugh for the entirety of the first half, which was our first real look at a tight rotation with Zyon Pullin back in the mix after serving a three-game suspension.
“Just thought we played super unselfishly, I thought we played with great pace, thought we got up the floor quickly and took advantage of that and obviously the rotation was tighter in the first half, you know, we played eight. ZP [Zyon Pullin] off the bench was on the perimeter, then kind of rotated those four guys and I just think they got in a really good rhythm and a really good flow,” Golden said postgame.
“It [stinks] because Julian [Rishwain] has been playing well, Zel [Denzel Aberdeen] has been playing well, Kajus [Kublickas] has given us good minutes,” Golden added on the rotation. “But tonight, we wanted to see what that group was able to do and obviously we got off to such a good start.”
One of the themes of the postgame press conference’s as of late has been team chemistry. Golden is pleased in what he is seeing from his backcourt to start the season.
“I thought it was great, but it’s what we have been seeing all Fall,” Golden said on Clayton and Pullin’s chemistry on the floor. “And it’s not just those two. To be honest, I think all four of those perimeters and Zel and Julian really are in this mix as well with Kajus, but they have been really unselfish and respectful of each other’s opportunities. I think that’s really important to be the best team you can be, right? When you have guys that are really unselfish playing for each other, when they are really good players, it makes you dangerous, and I think that’s why we are able to play well in the preseason. I thought we got away from that on Tuesday night or whenever our last game was, but we got back to it tonight in a big-time way.”
ZYON PULLIN’S RETURN
Zyon Pullin was a difference maker in his return to the court, logging 15 points, five rebounds, 4 assists, and just one turnover in 28 minutes of play.
“I think today was you know definitely a good game to come back to, a lot of fun, a lot of energy from the crowd,” Pullin said postgame. “We just fed off of it, and it was just a whole bunch of fun out there.”
Teams that make deep tournament runs tend to have elite guard play. With Pullin and Clayton looking as good as advertised early on, the Gators could be in for a successful season.
THOMAS HAUGH, LEADING REBOUNDER
Freshman forward Thomas Haugh hauled in 10 rebounds off the bench, the most by any player on either team on Friday night. Haugh helped the Gators outrebound the Seminoles 48-33 in the contest.
“I’m just going to go out there and do whatever Coach Golden tells me to do,” Haugh said on the start to his collegiate career. “Whether it’s to get a rebound or set screens, it doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter about points or any of that stuff – just whatever I can do to help contribute to help the team win. It’s been a great start so far.”
Haugh is not the flashiest guy on the court, but he’s going to give you everything he’s got on the floor, similar to fellow freshmen forward Alex Condon. Haugh also recorded his first career three pointer in the contest and logged five points.
- Florida posted its third straight win vs. Florida State, improving to 2-0 against the Seminoles under Todd Golden. The Gators raced to a 52-22 halftime lead and kept the margin comfortable despite battling foul trouble in the second half.
- The 21-point margin marked Florida’s largest win in the series since a 72-47 victory in Tallahassee on Dec. 5, 2012.
- Walter Clayton Jr. led the Gators with 19 points on 8-for-15 shooting and 3-for-8 from 3-point range, adding five assists for the fourth straight game.,
- Grad transfer point guard Zyon Pullin made his UF debut, coming off the bench for 15 points and four assists.
- Freshman Thomas Haugh posted his first career double-figure rebounding game, pulling down a team-leading 10.
- Tyrese Samuel contributed 15 points and seven rebounds despite being limited to 19 minutes of action.
- The Gators posted a +15 rebounding margin, their third straight game with at least a 15-rebound edge.
- Will Richard starred on defense, holding FSU leading scorer Darin Green Jr. to four points on 1-for-9 shooting, 0-for-3 from 3-point range.
Next up for Florida: vs. Pitt – NIT Season Tip-Off (at Brooklyn, N.Y.), Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU