Instant Analysis: Gators Fall to Wake Forest 82-71 in ACC/SEC Men’s Challenge

Wake Forest 82 - Florida 71

by Zack Weiss
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The Orange & Blue, looking to bounce back from Friday’s 95-91 loss to Baylor, traveled to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest in the ACC/SEC Men’s Challenge. Florida led early and kept it close late, but ultimately fell to the Demon Deacons 82-71 and to 4-3 on the season.

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

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Riley Kugel turned the ball over with 2:04 left, leading to a Wake Forest fastbreak bucket and a 71-66 Demon Deacons lead. This gave them all the momentum they didn’t have already and sparked a 13-5 run for the home team to close the game.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Riley Kugel had one of those nights tonight — one of those nights where he shows why he earned All-SEC freshman honors last season, why he was supposed to lead this team coming into this one, why he’s a legit NBA Draft prospect. He kept Florida in the game throughout the second half, specifically as it went on, making big play after big shot, stopping Wake Forest run after Wake Forest run. At the end, it wasn’t enough. But the loss was on anybody’s shoulders other than his. He finished the game with 24 on 9-14 from the floor, 4-6 from deep and 2-3 from the line. He also added 5 rebounds.

THESE STATS DON’T LIE: When you look at the advanced numbers, this game was about as close as it gets. Wake Forest shot 28-57, Florida 24-60. Wake shot 38% from deep, Florida 33%. Wake had 13 turnovers to Florida’s 15. Wake had one more rebound, 34-33, and one less bench point, 7-8. Points in the paint was a six-point differential, fastbreak points two; blocks, steals, and assists all just one. There were eight lead changes and Florida led the game for a minute and five seconds longer than Wake did. So, really, it came down to the last few minutes in which the Demon Deacons were able to scrape more out of the bottom of the barrel, when both teams were tired, than Florida could.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: Gators freshman Thomas Haugh, who made his first career start tonight, and Tyrese Samuel knew they’d have their hands full coming into this one — tasked to slow down Andrew Carr. Carr (6’10”, 220lbs), a senior out of West Chester, has averaged 15 points and 7.8 boards on the season for the Demon Deacons. And, well, he continued to have his way. He put up a dominant 22-point performance, shooting 8-13 from the floor and 3-6 from three — along with 6 boards and 2 assists.

WHAT A PLAY: With just under two minutes to play in the first half, down 30-29, Zyon Pullin secured a defensive rebound. He immediately pushed the ball up the court and found Riley Kugel to his right on the fast break, who took one dribble from the three-point line and one-hand dunked it all over Wake Forest’s 6-foot-10 forward Andrew Carr. This put Florida up 31-30 and sparked what would be a 7-2 Gators run to end the half.

UP NEXT: The Gators (4-3) next take the court Tuesday when they return to the O’Connell Center and host Merrimack (3-4) at 7 p.m.

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