Image Credit: ESPN Images
Florida Gators basketball improved to 5-0 with a hard-fought 81-76 win over the Seton Hall Pirates on Thursday in the first round of the 2016 AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s win below.
It was over when … Redshirt junior center John Egbunu hit 1-of-2 free throws with six seconds remaining to push Florida’s lead up to five. The true key play came at the one-minute mark when sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen made a heads-up play after a missed basket by stealing the ball from Seton Hall. Later in the possession, he drove the lane and banked in a layup to put the Gators up four.
Significant stretch: Florida completed a 9-2 run with 5:20 to play, which was an important conclusion to a 30-16 stretch that turned a six-point deficit early in the second half into a game-high eight-point advantage. Graduate transfer G Canyon Barry scored nine points on the extended run.
Exceptional efforts: Allen and Barry really got it done for the Gators on Thursday. Allen made half his shots and all four of his free throws for a game-high 21 points with six rebounds, while Barry scored 20 points, hit 6-of-7 free throws and added six boards of his own. The only other Florida player in double figures was sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza, who hit 2-of-3 triples and 6-of-8 attempts from the charity stripe for 14 points.
Significant stat: It’s strange to keep harping on free throw shooting, but it has truly made a a difference for the Gators this season. In a game with 51 combined fouls, Florida attempted 29 free throws. Whereas the Gators would’ve scored maybe 16 points off those a year ago, Florida hit 72.4 percent of its attempts this year and got 21 points at the line. With a five-point margin of victory, that made all the difference.
What it means: If the Gators had lost Thursday, Florida may have gone through the entire AdvoCare Invitational without a chance for a quality win. Instead, UF not only beat the Big East Tournament champions from a year ago but now gets the opportunity to face Gonzaga and Miami in the remainder of the bracket. It was also a great win for Florida’s RPI, and improving to 5-0 with every game at a neutral site is never a bad thing.
Odds and ends: The Gators saw three players foul out of the game including Chiozza, junior forward Devin Robinson (five fouls in 11 minutes) and senior PG Kasey Hill, who turned the ball over a game-high five times … Florida was dominated on the inside in the first half but closed the gaps over the final 20 minutes, only losing the rebounding margin 40-38 and paint scoring 34-24 … UF’s bench outscored Seton Hall’s 34-21 … the Gators hunkered down in the second half by taking higher-percentage shots; after shooting 24 treys in the opening 20 minutes, Florida settled for just six attempts in the second half
Up next: UF moves on in the AdvoCare Invitational to face No. 11 Gonzaga on Friday at 9:30 p.m. in a game that will air live nationally on ESPNU. Florida is 1-1 in the all-time series, beating Gonzaga 85-71 on Dec. 16, 2000, after the Bulldogs eliminated the Gators from the 1999 NCAA Tournament 73-72 in the Sweet 16.