FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
Florida’s 2018-19 season came to close in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, after losing to the Michigan Wolverines 64-49. It was an up-and-down year for the Gators, that saw them finish with a 20-16 (9-9 SEC) record.
However, Florida was still able to earn an invitation to the Big Dance and pull off an opening round upset victory over Nevada before exiting with a blowout loss to Michigan.
Before we move forward to next season, Inside the Gators takes a look back at the just completed campaign.
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Most Impressive Win: By no means was it their prettiest win, but the Gators victory at LSU in overtime was the most impressive and possibly the most important. The Gators jumped out to a comfortable lead on the road, but the Tigers were able to come back to force overtime. However, the Gators didn’t flinch in overtime and were able to pull off the upset win. More times than not this year, Florida couldn’t pull off the close wins. Not this time, as the Gators escaped Baton Rouge with the big win.
Most Exciting Win: This one could also go down as the team’s most impressive victory this season. And just like the one above, it came against LSU.
This time however, was in the SEC Tournament. The Gators and Tigers met in the quarterfinal and the game went down to the wire. It was looking as if the teams were heading to overtime for the third time they’ve met this year. However, Andrew Nembhard had a different plan.
Nembhard nailed the go-ahead three-pointer with one second remaining the break the tie at 73, sealing the Gators fate in the NCAA Tournament.
Most Frustrating Loss: This is a tough one to choose, because after the year the Gators had, there’s quite a few games that fit this label. The Gators had the chance to pull off multiple upsets at home, but blew leads.
However, for this one, I’m going with Florida’s 71-69 loss to South Carolina. The Gators were up double-digits in the second half. However, they allowed an inferior South Carolina team to escape Gainesville with the win. And the way they were able to steal the win had to be frustrating for the Gators. Florida misplayed the full-court pass and the Gamecocks had an easy layup for the win.
Most Valuable Player: This one is a toss-up, but in the end Andrew Nembhard is the most-worthy. He had a few games where he looked like a freshman, but for the most part, Nembhard looked like a veteran guard. He really grew as a player throughout the season, as his play was key in Florida making the tournament. Nembhard finished his freshman campaign averaging 8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists. The future looks bright for the Gators point guard.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Florida received valuable contributions from their freshman class this season. Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson all had moments throughout the year and look to have bright futures. For the most part, the Gators were a veteran-led team. However, at critical times, they relied heavily on the freshmen.
Most Improved: Not many returners progressed, but Kevarrius Hayes certainly did. The senior center averaged 8.3 points per game, a career-high season mark for Hayes. He scored more and was also pretty efficient. Hayes shot 67% from the field this season, is second best mark during his time at Florida. As a freshman, he shot 70% in limited action.
Most Improved: This isn’t from one season to the next, but rather from the start to the finish. Jalen Hudson’s turnaround towards the end of the season dramatically changed the course of this team. Early in the year, Hudson seemed to be practically unplayable. He was ice cold offensively and wasn’t giving enough effort defensively.
That changed towards the end of February and carried over to March for Hudson. The senior averaged 15.1 points in the month of March and elevated his defensive play.
Most Disappointing Moment: The most disappointing moment of the Gators season was the home letdown to the Georgia Bulldogs. Florida was rolling, entering the game on a five-game winning streak in the middle of their season turnaround. But that led to a dud on their home court against one of the league’s worst teams. The Gators were lucky to get a couple more wins on their resume, cause the bad loss against the Bulldogs could’ve kept them out of the tournament.
Best Individual Performance: Going to have to chalk this one up as a tie, with both performances belonging to Andrew Nembhard. The first has already been mentioned, as Nembhard was the hero against LSU in their SEC Tournament game. His game-winner wasn’t all he did, as he dropped 20 points and had six assists.
The second was Nembhard’s game in Tuscaloosa against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The freshman scored 21, on an outstanding 9-for-9 shooting performance.
Jalen Hudson’s 33-point night against LSU will get the honorable mention, since the Gators dropped that game.
Biggest Late-Season Surprise: Keyontae Johnson’s emergence toward the end of the season is certainly a sight Gators fans should be excited about. Johnson grew as a player throughout the season, but put it all together towards the end. The freshman scored a career-high 20 points against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. Johnson proved he can score along with grabbing rebounds and playing solid defense.