Last season, Florida basketball had a way of constantly taking one step forward followed by two steps back. The Gators could never sustain consistency, and by the time Colin Castleton had his season end, Florida’s fate was sealed.
It’s still early in the 2023-24 season, but wins like the one Florida picked up against Pittsburgh as part of the NIT Season Tip Off are the type of benchmark wins a squad needs if it wants to be dancing deep into March.
Florida Basketball: Here kitty kitty
The game started off as poorly as one could have drawn it up. Micah Handlogten got tangled up in the first minute of play and had to leave the game with an injury. Before the Gators could blink, Pitt shot out to a 19-10 lead eight minutes into the game.
Florida was able to quickly kick it into gear and had to score tied at 20 with 10 minutes to go in the half thanks to a three Walter Clayton, a trio of free throws from Will Richard, and some in the paint shots from both Clayton and Richard.
From there, the squads went back and forth for the rest of the half, but Florida basketball was able to pull ahead with a little bit of a cushion when Thomas Haugh drained a three at the buzzer.
Flip the script
Coming into the game, Florida was the best offensive rebounding team in the country. Pitt was also one of the more responsible teams in not turning the basketball over.
Well, Florida scored 47 points in the second half despite having zero second-chance points. Instead it was a run-and-gun style from the Gators that led to 17 fast break points in the second half and 10 points off turnovers.
Pitt fought back to open the second half and took the lead with 17 minutes left to play. It was at this point Florida officially asserted their will and never looked back.
Clayton finished the night with 28 points, shooting 6-8 from three. Tyrese Samuel had a double-double, scoring 20 points and collecting ten rebounds.
With the win, the Gators will take on the Baylor Bears on Friday in the finals.