University of Florida Men's Basketball Head Coach Todd Golden juggles two basketballs before the 3-point shoot-off during the men's basketball Orange and Blue game at the Exactech Arena in the Stephen C. OÕConnell Center Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (Sydney Johnson/ WRUF)

Gators Men’s Basketball Falls to Virginia, 73-70

The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team moves to 2-0 on the season after beating the Florida Gators 73-70 on Friday night  at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Cavaliers maintained composure defensively throughout a tight game, but Florida just couldn’t finish.

First Half

The Gators started off the first four minutes of game play strong.  Having built an early lead, Florida went to its bench, and Virginia took advantage, scoring 11 straight points out of the under-16 timeout.

In Florida’s first game of the year, the Gators put up 93 points, including a 16-0 run at the beginning, against Loyola Maryland.  But Virginia, known for its defense, put up a much stronger fight and forced the Gators to work for every basket.

Tony Bennett, the coach who guided the Cavaliers to a national title in 2019, employs a smothering pack-line defense that is the hallmark of Virginia’s defense. And that surely showed during the match up with Florida.

But Florida got some solid play from several different people.  Sophomore Micah Handlogten’s vision and patience were really impressive throughout this game. His passes were on the mark and he made some good decisions with the basketball. Florida guard Walter Clayton Jr. was able to facilitate well in the first half, controlling the tempo, but also stressing Virginia’s defense and scoring.

A back-and-forth contest ended with Virginia taking a 39-35 lead at halftime.

Second Half

With 13:27 left, UVA had opened a double-digit lead, 54-43, but the Gators were not going quietly. As the clock ticked under 10 minutes, the Gators made a run as Riley Kugel would finish at the rim to make it a two-possession game. The Cavaliers’ offense lulled, and after a free throw by Virginia, the score stood at 71-69 in favor of the Cavs.  A Florida free throw by Clayton made the score 71-70 and then Virginia turned the ball over, giving the Gators a chance to take the lead.  But Clayton committed a turnover which resulted in Virginia making one of two free throws to make it 72-70 with 12 seconds to go.  Clayton again had the ball in his hands near his own bench when the ball was stolen for another turnover.  The Cavaliers made one free throw to make it 73-70 and a desperation three point heave by the Gators was not close.

On the final possession of the game, when Blake Buchanan left the door open for the Gators to win, Clayton’s pass intended for Tyrese Samuel was deflected at the rim, resulting in Florida’s 16th and final turnover.

Riley Kugel led the Gators in scoring with 17 points while Will Richard added 16 while Tyrese Samuel and Micah Handlogten both had double-doubles in the game.  But in the end, despite a huge 47-30 rebounding edge, the Gators could not overcome 16 turnovers.

Up Next

The Gators return home to face Florida A&M on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the O’Dome.

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