The Florida Gator men’s basketball falls to Xavier in the second round of the NIT Tournament in the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, OH.
Gators Men’s Basketball 20-14 (9-9 SEC)
Florida entered this match up with a round-one win against Rick Pitino and Iona University in Gainesville. Under interim head coach Al Pinkins the Gators were able to earn him his first win as a head coach taking the spot from departed coach Mike White.
Florida got off to another slow and found themselves down 21-12 in the first half after nine minutes had been played.
Florida managed to fight their way back with a momentum push from Kowacie Reeves with a pair of back-to-back three-point baskets to bring the Gators back within three, 31-28. Florida and Xavier went on to exchange baskets as Phlandrous Fleming Jr. found his way to the cup in the last seconds to even the game at the halftime buzzer 33-33.
Following Fleming Jr.’s coast-to-coast basket, Xavier came out in the second half going on a 14-3 run taking the lead from the Gators again. The Gators could not find their groove as they went on a shooting slump to start the opening half only hitting 3 of 12 from the field.
The Gators only were able to score 23 points in the second half with very limited ball movement and empty offensive possessions. The Gators fell to second seed Xavier 70-54.
Interim head coach Al Pinkins on the game.
“Hard way to go out, but I’m proud of these guys. I didn’t really talk basketball in our postgame talk. We kind of talked life with these guys. They’ve been through a lot for young men, and it’ll make them stronger. I talked to our seniors that are leaving, those guys have been through so much this year.”
Kowacie Reeves had another solid night in his last game of the season with 14 points. As for a pair of seniors Colin Castleton and Tyree Appleby both added 10 points in their last game in a Gator uniform. The Gators end their season going in a new direction as they head back to Gainesville to welcome their new head coach Todd Golden who is set to take over the program after Mike White’s departure to Georgia.
This will be the first time the Gators have not made the NCAA Tournament or advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT Tournament since 1998. The Gators last trip to the NIT was in 2016 in the quarterfinals where they lost to the George Washington Colonials under Mike White in his first season with the program.
Now, the Gators will officially begin the Todd Golden era here in Gainesville.
Xavier Musketeers Men’s Basketball 20-13 (8-11 Big East)
Senior guard Nate Johnson lead the way for the Musketeers in their second-round NIT win with 16 points and five rebounds as Xavier advance to the quarterfinals to take on Vanderbilt.