The Gators ended their time in the SEC Tournament in a nail-biting loss to Mississippi State in overtime. The final was 69-68.
The second-round game was played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Ahead of the game, the Gators were seeded No. 8 and were 9-9 in conference play. The Bulldogs, though, had a losing record ahead of the tournament at 8-10.
Final #GoGators | @WellsFargo pic.twitter.com/4JpS9hbOkF
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 9, 2023
Gators second half comeback
The Gators put the first points on the board with a jumper by Jason Jitoboh assisted by Kyle Lofton. The Bulldogs responded quickly with a shot beyond the arc ending the only lead the Gators had the whole first half. The Gators had a 2:10 minute scoring drought starting at the 12:23 mark. In those two minutes, the Bulldogs scored seven points, and Florida only put a point on the board after a foul on the Bulldogs.
The Gators entered halftime at a 10 point deficit, 36-26.
Florida came out with a newfound energy for the second half. Aleks Szymczyk brought the Gators a lead in the second half after a three-point jumper assisted by Lofton. A back-and-forth for the lead ensued for the last 13 minutes of the game. Myreon Jones notched three three-point jumpers in the last seven minutes of the game. His third three pointer tied the game with 37 seconds left of the second half.
The Gators had possession after the Bulldogs missed a jumper, and Jones attempted a shot beyond the arc to win but fell short, sending the teams into overtime.
Overtime ended in a similar fashion, with a missed three pointer by Jones, ending Florida’s run in the SEC Tournament.
In the post-game SEC Tournament press conference, Mississippi State head coach Chris Jans said he’s proud of his team for not “throwing in the towel” or giving up.
Florida’s head coach Todd Golden said that although they got off to a rough start, he’s proud of his team and the strides they’ve made. He said that the team has stepped since Colin Castleton’s injury and overall have become more competitive throughout the season.
Riley Kugel still made an impact during the even though he didn’t have the best shots. Director of Player Development Taurean Green told him to “let the game come to you.”
The Gators will have to wait until Sunday to see whether or not they get a bid to the NIT Tournament.