Florida basketball is officially back from Brooklyn where they played in the NIT Season Tip-Off, where they played two strong games and turned some heads.
After dominating Pitt in their first game, they hung around and almost knocked off a Baylor team that is now ranked in the top ten.
But the Gators didn’t leave entirely empty-handed, as their impressive play earned one of their starters an independent accolade.
Tyrese Samuel, the Gators’ best big man to this point in the season, took home SEC Player of the Week.
Florida basketball: All-around dominance in the paint
Samuel was a force down low for the Gators in both of their games this past week, playing 30 and 29 minutes in each respectively.
In game one against the Panthers, Tyrese put up 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out three assists, shooting 81.8% from the field with three steals, and he only committed one foul. He protected the rim well with three blocks.
Against a Baylor team that boasts elite paint play, he put up 18 more points and grabbed six rebounds, going 7/8 from the field, swiping two steals, and committing three fouls.
Those two games were his highest-scoring of the season, and he was more efficient scoring in both than he had been all season.
Tyrese proved to Todd Golden that he can hold it down in the frontcourt when a guy like Micah Handlogten goes down. He isn’t just a support player for other guys.
He can easily be the feature big man not just for UF, but on a lot of teams as well.
Having depth down low is critical, especially later in the season. Foul trouble with their big men can force teams to totally abandon their game plans, but Samuel being there, along with guys like Handlogten, Condon, and Haugh, gives the Gators a big advantage.