Florida vs. Michigan score, takeaways: Gators prevail in 2OT as late clutch shots overcome early struggles

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 19, 2023
Florida vs. Michigan score, takeaways: Gators prevail in 2OT as late clutch shots overcome early struggles

Image Credit: UAA

It was quite a night in Charlotte at the 2023 Jumpman Invitational as the Florida Gators and Michigan Wolverines battled for 50 minutes before Florida ultimately prevailed 106-101 in double overtime. The Gators led at halftime but fell behind late in the second half with the teams trading clutch plays at the end of each period.

Florida improved to 8-3 with two nonconference games remaining before SEC play begins, and Tuesday night’s victory was one of its most important of the season given the level of effort required to ultimately take down Michigan. In doing so, head coach Todd Golden won for the first time at UF when trailing with 5 minutes remaining (1-18).

Let’s take a look at what went down in Charlotte.

It was over when … the buzzer sounded. Prior to that, junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. broke out of his funk by patiently drilling a dagger 3-pointer to push Florida ahead 102-93 with 50 seconds remaining in double overtime. That triple concluded an 11-0 run for the Gators that began with a two-handed slam by redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel. Between those baskets, Clayton and junior G Will Richard scored on clutch driving layups to help give UF its biggest lead of the game in the final 90 seconds.

In the first overtime, Florida trailed with a minute remaining only to miss three baskets on a single possession, seemingly ending its game as Michigan responded by hitting two free throws to increase its lead. However, redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin answered by draining a second-chance 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining to force a second OT. The Wolverines did not make a single field goal in the first OT period, going 0 of 4; all of their points came at the free throw line (8 of 8).

First half focus: The Gators started 0 of 7 from downtown and did not hit a single jump shot for the first 12 minutes of the game. However, a 3-pointer from Clayton broke that drought and pulled Florida down 23-22 of Michigan. UF picked up some steam with a late 9-2 run, and it used a halftime buzzer-beating triple from Pullin to move ahead 38-37. Florida held scoring edges of 18-3 off the bench and 12-2 off turnovers at the break. (It was 0-3 this season when trailing at halftime.)

Second half stumble: Five points from Pullin pushed Florida ahead as part of an extended 12-2 run. However, the Gators quickly found themselves behind until Richard evened the score with a 3-pointer as less than 5 minutes remained in the contest. Florida and Michigan then exchanged three straight old-fashioned 3-point plays with UF ultimately leading by 4 points with 1 minute left. It was all UM from there, however, with two second-chance baskets tying the game before the break. The Gators turned the ball over between those makes with a failed inbounds play, and they also struggled to get a quality shot on their final possession of the half, which came from an inbounds play under the basket.

Exceptional efforts: Samuel was consistently dominant Tuesday, scoring a season-high 21 points on 9 of 12 shooting with 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season and second in the last three games. He also had 3 blocks, 3 assists and a steal. Pullin was also immense in the contest, scoring a team-high 22 points with five dimes and six boards while hitting both triples attempted and 8 of 10 free throws. Not to be outdone, Richard contributed 17 points despite some inefficient shooting, and freshman center Alex Condon continued to impress with 14 points (6/9 FG), 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Samuel, Pullin and Richard combined for 36 of UF’s 43 points in the second half.

Somewhat-exceptional effort: Clayton was on the struggle bus for most of the game, scoring just 5 points in regulation while going 2 of 10 from the floor with 3 turnovers. However, he found some much-needed stroke in overtime where he scored 7 points on 3 of 8 shooting with no giveaways. His clutch play in 2OT drectly impacted Florida’s victory and cannot be overlooked despite a shaky start that led to him finding the bench for a large portion of the second half.

Unexceptional effort: Speaking of the struggle bus, sophomore G Riley Kugel is in the captain’s chair. Kugel scored 4 points going 2 of 10 from the field and 0 of 5 from downtown. He committed 3 turnovers and could be seen hanging his head all game, even after he made high-effort positive plays, including 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. (Oftentimes, his teammates did not capitalize on those efforts.) Kugel has been unable to catch a break of late. He’s 7 of 32 from the floor and 0 of 15 from long range over the last three games with 22 points and 10 turnovers. For a player who was supposed to enter the season as the Gators’ top scorer, no one needs the forthcoming break more than him.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 2-3 against Michigan and 26-37 against the Big Ten all-time … it was the Gators’ first win over the Wolverines since 1998 … Florida again dominated the paint with edges of 54-43 of the glass (21-12 offensive) and 60-38 in scoring … the Gators also held scoring edges off the bench (43-3), off the fast break (17-9) and off turnovers (16-6) … Florida only led for 11:17 in the 50-minute contest, including the final 3:04 … the Gators improved to 7-1 when leading at halftime, 5-0 when shooting better than 45%, 8-0 when outshooting an opponent, 7-1 with a bench scoring edge … Florida won its first overtime game under Golden (1-1)

What it means: This was a much-needed gritty win for a Gators team that has struggled to pull out close games for years, including the last 1.5 seasons under Golden. As mentioned, Florida won for the first time under Golden when trailing with 5 minutes left in regulation (1-18), and the fight it showed at the end of the first OT into the second OT was immensely commendable. Simply put, this team beasts on the boards, and its dominance in the paint will likely to be key to every win this season.

When the Gators patiently run their offense — especially inside-out using Samuel and Condon — they find consistent success putting the ball in the basket. This was evident through the driving looks converted by Clayton and Richard late in the game as well as the second-chance triple scored by Pullin to force the second extra period. It is a night-and-day difference from how they play when settling for 3-pointers or running clock and attempting to improvise, which is what largely happened in the second half.

Still, not all is rosey after this win. Golden continues to struggle with inbounds plays. Two such situations ultimately cost Florida the victory in regulation, and it has been a consistent issue throughout his entire tenure in orange and blue. Furthermore, the Gators’ free-throw shooting will continue to cost them games. Florida left 11 points at the line Tuesday night, going just 18 of 29 from the charity stripe. UF entered the game ranked 311 out of 351 Division I teams in free-throw percentage, and it shot worse than its average Tuesday. That is not sustainable for a team with goals of reaching at least the second weekend in the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

What’s next: Florida will wrap up the week at home against Grambling State, ending a stretch where it played six of seven games away from home over the last month. The game will tip at 4 p.m. ET and air live on SEC Network+ with the Gators getting eight days off before its final nonconference game of the season on Dec. 30 against Quinnipiac.

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