Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators beat No. 18 Xavier, win Charleston Classic

By Adam Silverstein
November 25, 2019
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators beat No. 18 Xavier, win Charleston Classic

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Entering the 2019 Charleston Classic at .500 and down on itself after dropping from No. 6 to out of the AP Top 25 after just two weeks of the 2019-20 season, the Florida Gators (5-2) rebounded in a major way, charging through the field to win the tournament Sunday night with a 70-65 victory over the No. 18 Xavier Musketeers (6-1). Florida handed Xavier its first loss of the season and did so in mostly dominant fashion … until the end of the game.

More than anything else, the short trip to Charleston, South Carolina, should give the Gators renewed hope for the rest of the season. When they play the right way, they are capable of standing up to — and beating — some of the best teams in the nation. What went down on Sunday night? Let’s take a look with our takeaways from the game.

It was over when … Xavier guard Paul Scruggs missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with 13 seconds to play, and Florida graduate transfer forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. grabbed the rebound. Scruggs, who had a game-high 24 points, missed four of his final five shots down the stretch. Blackshear hit his ensuing free throws to give the Gators a five-point lead that held through the buzzer.

This after Florida led by 17 points with 16:08 to play following an 8-0 run early in the second half. Xavier responded with a 13-2 scoring stretch to cut its deficit to six midway through the per. However, the Gators were able to answer and led by 10 with less than four minutes to play. They then missed five straight field goals, allowing the Musketeers a 7-0 run; consecutive late threes by Quentin Goodin cut Florida’s advantage to just three points with 1:09 to play, but Blackshear made a free throw to force a long-range shot on Xavier’s final significant possession. Still, UF ended the game missing its final five shots (three from long range), completely opening the door for Xavier when it had a chance to slam it shut.

Exceptional efforts: Blackshear was outstanding with his fifth double-double in seven games this season (14 points, 10 rebounds), but sophomores F Keyontae Johnson and point guard Andrew Nembhard actually led the way with 15 points each; Johnson added five boards, while Nembhard contributed four assists. Sophomore guard Noah Locke made key baskets all game, hitting 3-of-5 triples to finish with 13 points. It was truly a team effort on Saturday night, as it was the entire week in Charleston.

Odds and ends: Freshman G Ques Glover was a crucial rotational player, making 4-of-5 shots to score nine points in 15 minutes; it seemed that whenever Florida needed a basket and was in a bit of a slump, he came through … the Gators shot a season-best .542 from the field Saturday and have now made 17-of-37 threes (.459) over their last two games … Saturday was a turnover fest with teams combining to score 38 points off 34 giveaways … Florida led for 33:24 and only trailed for 2:50 in the game; it was never behind in the second half … Johnson was named Charleston Classic MVP

What it means: There’s no question this was a huge bounce-back game for the Gators, one that will likely push them back into the AP Top 25 later Monday. Florida made key offensive adjustments this week, and head coach Mike White clearly got it into his team’s head that they were not moving the ball well enough to create open shots and opportunities for each other. This is not unlike issues that Billy Donovan faced with his talented teams a decade ago; the difference is that these players are mostly freshmen and sophomores and still learning how to properly work within a team. The Charleston Classic put Florida back on the right track. It does not mean everything is fixed, but it’s certainly a good start.

What’s next? UF will host Marshall on Friday night. It then gets a full week off before it heads to Butler for a key road game.

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