(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)
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Florida’s season came to an end Wednesday night after a 67-49 loss to Central Florida in the first round of the NIT Tournament.
The Gators (16-17, 9-9 SEC) held an early 9-2 lead in the first half but struggled the rest of the way as Knights’ guard duo Taylor Hendricks and CJ Kelly dominated on the floor.
Inside the Gators’ Instant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: UCF went on a large run in the first half. Down 9-2 at the 17:49 mark, the Knights rallied and tamed the Gators by going on a 24-5 run and held a 26-14 lead with 6:39 in the half. Florida went on a 7-0 run after, but couldn’t quite catch up, and UCF ran up the score after. The Knights took a 35-26 lead into half and led the rest of the way.
THEY STOLE THE SHOW: Taylor Hendricks. UCF’s freshman phenom came into Wednesday’s game with 15.3 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game, all of which are team highs. He continued his ferocious play with 17 points on the night and a shooting percentage of 72 percent. He also added eight rebounds on the night.
THESE STATS DON’T LIE: Shooting. Especially points in the paint.
To put it bluntly, Florida did not shoot well offensively or defend well, especially close to the basket. On the night, the Gators made 19 baskets on 59 attempts (32.2 percent) and only hit four three-pointers on 24 attempts (16.7 percent).
The Knights, meanwhile, shot consistently on the floor and hit 52.7 percent of their field goal attempts and 40 percent of their three-point attempts. Additionally, UCF outscored Florida 40-28 in the paint.
THIS MATCH-UP PROVED KEY: Freshman vs. Freshman. Kugel vs. Hendricks
Wednesday’s game boasted a matchup between two of the most talented freshmen in the country – Florida’s Riley Kugel and UCF’s Hendricks. Kugel led the way for Florida with 13 points and three three-point shots, while Hendricks had 17 of his own. Although the score wasn’t close, the matchup provided some fun moments. And now, the two head into the offseason with possible NBA Draft hopes on the table.
WHAT A PLAY: Riley Kugel’s four-point play early in the first half. The true freshman continued to play his best basketball early in Wednesday’s game with a near ankle-breaking, step-back three-point shot while getting fouled. His free-throw make gave Florida an early lead and some early energy that they couldn’t hold.
4-point play for the freshman 😏
📺 https://t.co/wwMO7JdFII pic.twitter.com/l4KgiQvtNK
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 15, 2023
UP NEXT: The Gators close the book on the 2022-2023 season and officially look to year two of the Todd Golden era. With three seniors on the way out, and a possibility of a few transferring or leaving the program, Golden and his staff will look to revamp the roster mostly through the transfer portal.
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