Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators blow another double-digit lead at Texas A&M

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 3, 2024
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators blow another double-digit lead at Texas A&M

Image Credit: UAA

It would not be the Florida Gators basketball program if a rousing victory over a top-tier opponent was not followed by a deflating loss. That’s exactly what happened Saturday night in College Station, Texas, as Florida amassed a 12-point lead in the second half only to ultimately fall 67-66 to the Texas A&M Aggies.

Gators head coach Todd Golden seemingly had no answers to the halftime adjustments put into place by Aggies head coach Buzz Williams. Florida was unable to move the ball against the zone defense, stopped attempting to score in the paint, constantly turned the ball over and stood on the wrong side of immensely uneven officiating. The result was a costly loss for a UF program that needs to build its resume over the next two months.

Let’s take a look at what went wrong Saturday night.

It was over when … Florida front-ended two shots on its final possession, which began with 20 seconds remaining, allowing Texas A&M to prevail. On the Gators’ prior possession, a poor pass was bobbled by sophomore guard Riley Kugel, who regained the ball and called timeout only for referees to rule it a jump ball. The Aggies traveled trying to inbounds the ball, leading to the finishing sequence.

Junior guard Will Richard hit consecutive 3-pointers to push Florida ahead 12 points less than 90 seconds into the second half only to see Texas A&M use runs of 11-2 and 7-0 to take the lead at 57-55 with 8:44 to play. The Gators struggled to get any open shots as the Aggies switched to a zone defense with UF committing nine fouls and three turnovers during that stretch to let TAMU back in the game, which went back-and-forth over the duration.

Florida scored a paltry 26 points in the second half, shooting just 38% from the field while hitting 3 of 13 attempts from downtown (.231). It committed 13 fouls and seven turnovers in the period, giving Texas A&M a massive 20-2 free throw disparity in the latter 20 minutes. The only reason the game was even close is that TAMU was awful at the line, hitting just 11 of those attempts.

First half focus: Trailing by as many as seven early in the period, Florida used an extended 14-2 scoring stretch to get back in the game. The Gators followed with a 16-2 run — including a corner triple from Kugel — pushing their lead to 13 points late in the half only to see the Aggies cut it in two with a 7-0 run entering the locker rooms. Kugel was among three star players who combined to score 30 points, 75% of Florida’s team total at halftime.

Exceptional efforts: Redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin was by far Florida’s best player on the court scoring 18 points on 8 of 15 shooting with eight assists. However, even Pullin struggled with three giveaways. While Kugel was nails in the first half hitting all three of his 3-pointers, he missed all three second-half attempts finishing with 12 points, five rebounds and four dimes. Richard also added 12 points but hit just 3 of 10 attempts from downtown.

Odds & ends: Texas A&M pulled even at 9-9 in the all-time series against Florida … the Gators are now 3-5 playing at the Aggies … Golden is 0-3 against Williams … Florida lost for the third time when leading at the half (13-3) and second time when leading with 5 minutes left (13-2) this season … the Gators lost for the first time when outshooting an opponent from the field (14-1) and second time when outshooting an opponent from downtown (10-2) … UF is now 0-4 in orange uniforms under Golden

What it means: Florida lost a game it should have won — and needed to win — against a Quadrant 1 team on the road. The Gators again coughed up a double-digit lead held in a second half and looked like they had absolutely no idea how to score. Florida stopped moving the ball into the paint and allowed Texas A&M to basically do whatever it wanted. The officiating did not help; while the Gators did commit more legitimate fouls than the Aggies in the second half, the 13-6 disparity was nowhere close to reality. TAMU was gifted one opportunity after another at the charity stripe, and even so, struggled to put the game away.

Florida also has a significant defensive issue that now appears to be consistent and concerning. TAMU’s Tyrece Radford scored 26 points Saturday night making it six straight games in which UF has allowed an opposing scorer to post 24+ points in a game (26, 24, 35, 26, 36, 39).

What’s next? The Gators will continue their alternating home stands and road trips playing consecutive games in the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. First up is No. 16 Auburn, which visits next Saturday after Florida enjoys a week off.

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