The Florida Gators men’s basketball team opened up their season Monday night at home against Loyola Maryland. Coming off of a season where Florida had a losing record (16-17), expectations are high for second-year head coach Todd Golden. The Gators did not disappoint, blowing out Loyola Maryland 93-73.
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) November 7, 2023
Florida started the first half strong, jumping out to an early 16-0 lead. The Gators did it with their defense, forcing four turnovers in the first six minutes of the half. Finally, at the 13:48 mark of the first half, Loyola Maryland got their first bucket when Tyson Commander hit a jumper.
Florida played at a high pace all game, proving very effective throughout. Tyrese Samuel had a strong first half, scoring 11 points and grabbing six boards. The Gator bench also got very involved, with Alex Condon leading the way. The freshman forward had six points in the first half and 13 points in the game with 17 minutes played. Florida played a very efficient half, shooting 51.9% to take a 42-30 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Gators pulled away. Florida started out the second half shooting 77.8% from the floor, taking a 58-38 lead with 15:10 remaining.
The impact of second year guard Riley Kugel was felt. He had six steals in the game and led all scorers with 23 points. Guard Walter Clayton Jr. had a strong performance as well, running the Florida offense at an elite level all game. He finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Moreover, the story for the Gators was the impact of center Micah Handlogten. The second year transfer from Marshall has big shoes to fill with the departure of current Los Angeles Laker Colin Castleton. Handlogten had 14 points in the second half, finishing with 16 points and six rebounds.
The Gators cruised to a 93-73 victory at home, starting the season 1-0.
Florida shot 58.1% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range. The Gators struggled from the free throw line, however, shooting just 50% from the charity stripe. Florida won the rebound battle 43-30, and 13 of those were offensive boards. The Gators moved the ball around very well, ending with 17 assists in the game. The defense for the Gators was elite, forcing 15 turnovers and recording 11 steals in the outing. Florida’s largest lead of the night was 26.
Loyola Maryland shot 45.8% from the field and 34.6% from behind the arc. The Greyhounds had 30 rebounds in the contest, losing both the offensive and defensive rebound battle. Defensively, the Greyhounds forced 11 Florida turnovers. Senior forward Golden Dike led the team in scoring, finishing with 16 points on 5/5 shooting to pair with six rebounds and two assists.
Florida looks ahead to their next game against Virginia on Friday. Tipoff for that game is set for 7 p.m.