Instant Analysis: Florida advances to face Texas Tech
The Florida Gators demolished the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, 77-62, on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas securing a spot in the Round of 32. The Gators are now 16-5 in Round of 64 games, with their last loss coming in 2010. Florida outscored St. Bonaventure, 50-40, in the second half and shot 52.9% from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes. The Gators will get a day off before taking on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Florida’s defense was tremendous and secured them a Round of 64 victory. Even when the Gators’ offense stagnated, their lock-down D stayed energetic and active. After UF’s loss to Arkansas, Keith Stone said, “just cause we’re not making shots doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play defense.” Despite a few long stretches without a made basket, Florida stayed locked in on the other end of the floor and continued to force turnovers and fill passing lanes. The Gators turned 18 St. Bonaventure giveaways into 25 points and finished the game with 24 fast break points. Stone’s comments should be posted in every corner of Florida’s locker room for the rest of the postseason.
THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Egor Koulechov and Chris Chiozza were outstanding in the Gators’ take down of the Bonnies. Koulechov finished with a team-leading 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting and secured 6 rebounds. Chiozza recorded 8 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds and 0 turnovers in 31 minutes of action. Koulechov finished the game with a +10 rating, while Chiozza was +18. Florida’s floor general also secured 3 steals.
THESE STATS DON’T LIE: The Gators are now 11-3 in games that they sink 10 or more three-pointers. Florida went 10-of-32 from beyond the arc, as Koulechov made a team-high four three-pointers. Five different Gators made at least one shot from long-range against St. Bonaventure.
Jalen Hudson looked like a different player in the second half. After going 1-of-6 from the field in the first frame, he made 5 of his final 8 shots in the final twenty minutes. The Virginia Tech-transfer scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.
Of all the good things the Gators did tonight, their most impressive feat may have been holding Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley to 21 combined points. Adams went for 11 points on 2-of-6 shooting, while Mobley ended the game with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field. Mobley missed 8 of his 9 three-point attempts. On top of Florida’s terrific defensive effort on the Bonnies’ dynamic duo, the Gators held St. Bonaventure to just 17 made shots. The Bonnies went 3-of-19 from long-range on Thursday night.
WHAT A PLAY: Chris Chiozza’s steal with 18:02 left in the contest, followed by a beautiful spin-move and layup gave the Gators a 34-22 lead, their largest of the game up to that point. Florida started the second half on a 7-0 run.
Jalen Hudson’s putback, And1 dunk over three St. Bonaventure defenders was worthy of a spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10. The play gave the Gators a 20-point lead with just under 8 minutes left in the game.
BOTTOM LINE: When Florida’s defense is playing at their peak, the offense just seems to come along. The Gators’ ability to force turnovers and get into transition can frazzle opponents in win-or-go home situations like the NCAA Tournament. It also opens up the three-point arc for Florida, which we saw in the second half. There’s a reason 80% of Mike White’s comments at press conferences have to do with defense.
UP NEXT: The Florida Gators have advanced to the Round of 32 and will take on the No. 3 seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday at 8:40 p.m. on TNT.
TTU is coming off of a 70-60 win over Stephen F. Austin in the Round of 64. Keenan Evans had 21 points and 5 rebounds in that game. Florida is 2-0 all-time against Texas Tech, but hasn’t faced the Red Raiders since 1962. The Gators won that game 71-69 in overtime.
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