Photo: UF UAA

Gators men’s basketball wins big on senior night

Florida hosted LSU Saturday night at the O’Connell Center to wrap off the 2022-23 regular season.

Point guard Kyle Lofton, center Jason Jitoboh and preseason All-SEC center Colin Castleton, whose season was cut short on February 15 when he broke his hand against Ole Miss, were recognized before the game.

This senior night was unforgettable as the Gators made an exciting comeback after the first half. The Gators (16-15, 9-9 SEC) defeated the Tigers 79-67 (13-18, 2-16) by scoring 50 points in the second half.

Florida began the night with low energy and was sluggish on the floor. LSU maintained the lead for most of the first half. The end score at halftime was 33-29. 6-5 freshman guard Riley Kugel shared his thoughts on the Gator’s performance in the first half.

Second Half Comeback

Early in the second half, Florida found themselves down 12 points. Kugel was the reason the Gators gained momentum, as he made a few three-pointers that reduced the Tigers’ lead to 4.

Kowacie Reeves followed suit as he made a slam dunk, resulting in the O’Dome erupting with cheers. The slam dunk gave the Gators their first lead since the eighth minute of the first half, 54-53. Soon after, Kugel made back-to-back threes to extend their advantage to nine. Kugel ended the game with 21 points, shooting 8 of 14 from the field and 4 of 7 from three-point range. Since Bradley Beal, Kugel is the first rookie from Florida to have eight straight games with at least 12 points against an SEC opponent. Lofton had a successful senior night as he scored 16 points.

The Gator’s full-court pressure defense in the second half stopped the Tigers shooting percentage to 36.7%. The Gators shot 53.3% in the second half, including 15-for-25 from the floor (60.0%) over the final 15 minutes.

Up Next

The Gators will travel to Nashville to compete in the SEC tournament on March 9th against the Mississippi State bulldogs. The Gators previously beat Mississippi State at home 61-59.

About Cristina Santiago

Cristina Santiago is a senior at the University of Florida studying journalism with a concentration in sports and media.

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