Instant Analysis: Florida loses nail-biter to Virginia in Charlotte, falls to .500

Virginia 73 - Florida 70

by Zack Weiss
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Year 2 of the Todd Golden era is off to a .500 start two games in. Florida was tested against a very solid Cavaliers team at a neutral site Friday night. And in what was a roller coaster of a game, the Gators came up just short.

Inside the Gators’ Instant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Walter Clayton Jr. turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions at the end of the game. The first with 12.3 seconds left trying to find Tyrese Samuel in the paint and the second trying to get it to Riley Kugel after being trapped against the baseline with 0.7 on the clock. After going up big early, Florida gave up its lead and went down double digits. The Gators climbed back into it and brought it down to the wire, but couldn’t string together enough solid offensive possessions at the end to get the job done.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Blake Buchannan, the 6-foot-11 freshman out of Idaho, gave Todd Golden & Co. trouble all night. Micah Handlogten had a great game, and Buchannan still gave him and the rest of the Florida defense all they could handle — fouling Handlogten out with 2:44 left to play. He originally came off the bench but started the second half and may just have earned that starting spot going forward. He’s going to be a fun guy to watch with the Cavaliers as he grows throughout his collegiate career. He finished the night with 18 points and 7 rebounds in just 27 minutes on 4-7 shooting and an overwhelming 10-16 from the charity stripe.

THESE STATS DON’T LIE: In games in which they trail at the five-minute mark, Florida is now 0-16 — yes, you read that right — under Todd Golden. Going forward, if the Gators want to have any semblance of postseason success, they’ve got to learn how to win close games down the stretch.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: This easily could’ve been the battle of the bigs, Micah Handlogten vs. Blake Buchanan, because, as aforementioned, both were really, really good for their respective teams. But the matchup to watch going in was the battle of the stars: Riley Kugel vs. Reece Beekman; and this game was drastically impacted by each of their play throughout. Kugel struggled most of the night but came on hot toward the end. Beekman was more of the opposite, getting off to a strong start and leaving the closing job to Buchannan. Kugel finished with 17 points on 7-19 shooting and 2-7 from deep. Beekman had 13 on 5-13 from the field and 2-4 from beyond the arc. Much of the reason for this generally low-scoring affair between these two teams can likely be attributed to each star’s struggles.

WHAT A PLAY: With 8:20 left in the game, Kugel hit a fastbreak and one layup which, combined with Handlogten’s subsequent free throw putback, gave the Gators a 55-54 lead. This sequence rounded out a 12-0 Florida run after they trailed by 11 just minutes earlier. This was also the Orange & Blue’s first lead since it was 32-31.

UP NEXT: Florida (1-1) will next take the court on Tuesday, back in Gainesville, to host Florida A&M (0-2).

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