Gators Men’s Basketball Bounce Back with Victory Over Merrimack – ESPN 98.1 FM – 850 AM WRUF

The Florida Gators Men’s Basketball team finished with a strong 77-57 win against Merrimack in the O’Connell Center on Tuesday.

The Gators (5-3) extend their at-home winning streak to 4-0.

A Rocky First Half

In his opening remarks, Walter Clayton Jr. emphasized the importance of defense for the Gators. A fastbreak layup for Florida sophomore guard Riley Kugel was the result of his theft of the ball from Merrimack freshman guard Adam Clark.

But, it didn’t take Merrimack (4-6) long to respond. Within the first three minutes of play, the Warriors responded with a 6-0 run to take a 6-4 lead. First off the bench for Florida was sophomore center Micah Handlogten, who has been injured since the match against Pittsburgh. However, he wasn’t much help offensively.

After six minutes, the Gators were 2-6 from the field.

Consequently, Merrimack took advantage of Florida’s over three-minute scoring drought. With under 14 minutes left in the first half, Warriors graduate student forward Samba Diallo scored a layup to push Merrimack’s run to 9-0. Shots were not falling for Florida.

Florida, however, switched to a high, halfcourt press defense and pushed back the Warriors. With nearly one-and-a-half minutes left in the half, the Gators took their first lead of the night after a wide-open 3-pointer from Kugel.

Gators Bounce Back

In the second half, Merrimack’s defense transitioned from full court pressure to a 3-2 zone after opening each offensive possession with full court pressure.

The second half was dominated by Clayton. Four points were scored by Clayton in the first minute of the second half to give the Gators a 34-31 lead.

Notwithstanding, after a 6-0, two-minute run, the Warriors were able to retake the lead off second chance points. With 16 minutes remaining, Clayton-led Gators ran out of steam and condon went to the line to make a free throw.

At the line, the Australian forward Alex Condon split his shots. With a smooth jumper, Florida graduate student guard Zyon Pullin tied the game at 37-37.

Down the stretch, the Gators relied heavily on ball movement. A corner 3-pointer was made by Clayton after 30 seconds of everyone touching the ball. After drilling the shot, Florida went on a 10-0, two-and-a-half minute run. In just five minutes, Florida’s run went from 2-0 to 15-2. Then, in the final 12 minutes, Clayton hit one of his four 3-pointers to put the Gators ahead 47-37.

Finally, with two minutes left on the clock, the Gators led 73-53. With time running out for the Warriors defense, they could not answer Florida.

Up Next

Florida will hit the road again to take on Richmond on Saturday on neutral ground for their Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise at 4 p.m. (SEC Network, 98.1-FM, AM850 WRUF) Florida State faces South Florida at 1 p.m.

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