Florida basketball score, takeaways: Disappointing season mercifully ends as Gators fall to Xavier in NIT

By Adam Silverstein
March 20, 2022
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Disappointing season mercifully ends as Gators fall to Xavier in NIT
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

With an interim coach on the sideline, two key players out and what the program hopes is a bright future ahead, Florida Gators basketball saw its 2021-22 season mercifully come to an end in the second round of the NIT. The No. 2-seed Xavier Musketeers were the catalyst that sent No. 3-seed Florida off on its new course in a thorough 70-54 win at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Gators put themselves in significant deficits to start each half on Sunday and saw their uneven offense play one of its worst halves of the season across the latter 20 minutes. The end result was Florida exiting the NIT before the quarterfinals for the first time in four appearances since 1998.

With new head coach Todd Golden set to take over the program’s reigns beginning Monday when he arrives in Gainesville, Florida, the focus for the team will be on the future. However, before the Gators can get there, we must take one last look at their final game of the campaign.

Here’s what went down on Sunday as Florida’s season came to an end.

It was over when … The Musketeers increased their lead to a game-high 18 points in the final few minutes. Xavier used a 14-3 stretch to break the halftime tie and go up 11 over 4 minutes into the second half. Florida fought back with a short run, but the Musketeers used another 8-1 stretch to lead by 12 as the Gators went without a basket for an astounding 7:26. UF never got within double digits over the final 8:28 as it shot an astoundingly poor 8 of 36 from the field (.222) and 1 of 19 from long range (.053) in the second half.

First half focus: Xavier used an extended 14-2 run to take a 19-9 lead midway through the period, but Florida chipped away at that advantage continuously down the stretch and ended the half with a 7-2 spurt to tie the game at 33. Four Gators each had six points in the opening 20 minutes showing a far better distribution of scoring compared to recent games.

Exceptional efforts: Freshman guard Kowacie Reeves had the most impressive moments of the game but was inefficient overall finishing with 14 points on 3 of 8 shooting from downtown. He also took an elbow to the head late and was treated for a cut on his forehead. Redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton and senior point guard Tyree Appleby each scored 10 points and combined for 10 rebounds in their last game with the team.

Odds and ends: This marked the second time since 1998 that Florida neither played in the NCAA Tournament nor reached at least the quarterfinals of the NIT (2015) … the Gators are 7-4 in the NIT since 2008 and have never won the tournament in 11 chances … Florida is now 2-3 all-time against Xavier with its first loss since 2010 … UF went 4-6 across its final 10 games of the season … assistant Al Pinkins went 1-1 as an interim coach in the postseason … Florida was badly dominated in the paint with Xavier holding a 43-32 rebounding and 38-28 scoring margin … UF led for just 2:41 of the 40-minute game … the teams combined for 33 turnovers

What’s next / what it means: It was a truly unremarkable season for the Gators, which will have to retool the entire program following the exit of Mike White. Florida’s roster will undergo a significant change this offseason as Golden will not only focus on recruiting his style of players into the program but also building a coaching staff that can thrive in the wild world of the SEC — not just on the court and in recruiting but in grabbing players off the transfer portal and handling name, image and likeness benefits. Golden will also have to reverse the apathy that has consumed the Gators fan base, particularly from alumni who were sparse at even the program’s biggest games this past season.

As Golden has said, Florida is indeed one of the top hoops programs in the nation, a potential national championship contender and the best school in the state. But those first two accolades need to be nurtured to become true again, and that is something that has not been accomplished in the last few seasons.

Join The
Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

Top
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux