Insider Notes From Florida’s Secret Scrimmage

It’s officially “secret scrimmage” season, the time when teams are allowed to play unofficial closed door games against whoever they please.


This year the Gators took on Miami, a team who brings back multiple players from their Final Four squad a year ago.

While the game wasn’t filmed, I was able to get information from sources on both the Florida and Miami side to hopefully piece together an accurate look at what went on in this secret scrimmage.


According to sources, Florida won the game 91-89 on a buzzer beater from Zyon Pullin, a shot you can actually see from this highlight package the Gators shared:


Riley Kugel led the way for Florida with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, and was followed closely behind by Tyrese Samuel who had 19 points and 6 rebounds. Another player with a notable statistical performance was Walter Clayton who had 9 assists alongside his 15 points, nearly getting a difficult to attain double-double.


Accounts from multiple people who were in the building said the game was “defense optional” and both coaches were upset with how their teams guarded. Miami was 30-62 from the field (including 12-26 from three) while Florida was 34-71 from the field, and somewhat notably–only 6-24 from three (25%). Walter Clayton, who was known for his shooting at Iona, was particularly cold at 1-6 and Zyon Pullin struggled (1-4) while Riley Kugel (2-5) and Will Richard (2-6) were solid. Three-point shooting is thought to be a strength of this roster but it wasn’t against Miami–though a one game sample in a secret scrimmage isn’t any major issue. 


Free throw shooting also wasn’t a strength for Florida, as Tyrese Samuel (1-4), Thomas Haugh (1-3), Zyon Pullin (0-1) and Alex Condon (0-2) contributed to a 63% performance from the charity stripe. Luckily, Walter Clayton (6-6), and Riley Kugel (4-5) looked solid. 


Florida was able to control the glass for much of the game and got a huge boost when Thomas Haugh came into the game. Haugh ended with 6 offensive rebounds and everyone in attendance came away impressed with his effort level, and it appears from the highlights shared from the Florida basketball account that Haugh was on the floor in crunch time in the second half. Defensive rebounding is a huge focus for Florida this season and they allowed 10 offensive rebounds from the Hurricanes, a manageable number but one they’ll look to improve on. 


Looking at things from the opponent perspective, a Miami source said that the best player on the floor for the Gators was Tyrese Samuel. Getting the opportunity to play the power forward spot next to Micah Handlogten in the frontcourt to start the game meant a favorable matchup from a side perspective and Samuel got to play some bully ball early, catching the ball near the hoop and finishing with authority. Samuel and Clayton also combined in the pick and roll game to exploit some holes in the Hurricanes’ defense which resulted in some thunderous alley-oops for Samuel.


Florida’s bigger frontcourt did struggle a bit defensively, something that was exaggerated by the fact that Miami likes to play small and fast, something that worked for them on their Final Four run last season. Much like they used pace and space to upset some bigger, more physical teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Hurricanes went to their 5-out spacing and tried to get Florida’s bigs into space guarding talented players like Nijel Pack and Wooga Poplar and they had plenty of success with the strategy. This was a great opportunity for Florida to see what they’re two-big system would look like against a smaller opponent and they should have plenty of film to see where they can make improvements before the season. 


While it’s just a scrimmage that doesn’t count for anything it always feels good for a team to get a win, particularly when it’s a relatively new group of players that hasn’t seen game action together. Their confidence in taking down a defending Final Four team should get a boost, even if it wasn’t in an official capacity.

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_.