Florida basketball: 3 takeaways from the Gators' 77-67 win against Georgia Bulldogs

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Feb 28, 2023; Athens, Georgia, USA; Florida Gators guards Will Richard (5) and Riley Kugel (24) fight for the ball with Georgia Bulldogs guard Justin Hill (11) during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Florida snapped a three-game losing streak and picked up its first win without injured All-SEC center Colin Castleton, beating Georgia 77-67 at Stegeman Coliseum Tuesday night in Athens, Ga.

The Gators (15-15, 8-9 SEC) are now back at .500 and can close out the regular season with a winning record if they can beat LSU on Senior Day on Saturday at the O'Connell Center (6 p.m. SEC Network).

Florida played solid defense throughout the night, holding Georgia to 33.3 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from 3-point range (4-of-22) while recording 8 steals and 6 blocked shots. Florida head coach Todd Golden sprinkled in some zone defense down the stretch, which sparked a late 6-0 run that extended Florida's lead to 72-61 with 2:16 left. From there, Florida closed out the game.

"I’m just really proud of how our guys played together," Golden said.

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The Gators swept their two-game series with Georgia this season, with Golden improving to 2-0 against former Florida and current Georgia coach Mike White. Overall, Florida won its eighth in a row against Georgia and fifth straight in Stegeman Coliseum.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

A career scoring day for Will Richard

Starting Florida guard Will Richard posted a career-high 24 points to help spark the Gators. Richard went 8 of 11 from the floor and 5 of 8 from 3-point range, hitting several big shots throughout the game.

Richard scored 15 points in the first half, including a corner 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer that put the Gators up 43-33. Then, in the second half, after Georgia cut Florida's lead to 57-55 on a layup by Kario Oquendo, Richard answered with a 3-pointer to put Florida back up 60-55 with 7:02 remaining. Richard added a mid-range jumper during a 7-2 run that extended Florida's lead to 64-57 with 6:03 left.

Richard said he spent a lot of time with assistant coaches Carlin Hartman and Kevin Hovde this week, going over film, finding ways to get open and create more scoring opportunities.

"A lot of times when people are driving, guys can’t see me, so it’s up to me to find those open spaces and get behind defenders," Richard said.

Freshman guard Riley Kugel added 19 points for the Gators, narrowly missing his third straight 20-point game.

Guards step up on the boards

With centers Jason Jitoboh, Alex Szymczyk and Alex Fudge all in foul trouble, the Gators needed their guards to clean up on the glass. Myreon Jones posted a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, while Kugel had 6 rebounds and Richard had 5 rebounds.

"All four of the perimeters that started played really well," Golden said.

Georgia held a slim 38-36 edge on the boards against Florida and outscored the Gators 13-5 in second-chance points. But it could have been worse had Jones not come up with his share of boards off Georgia missed 3-point attempts,

Florida bottles up Georgia point guard Terry Roberts

Florida did an excellent job defensively on Roberts, who burned the Gators for 25 points in the first meeting between the two schools. Roberts was held to 9 points on 3 of 8 shooting and 1 of 4 shooting from three-point range. He picked up two fouls in the first half, playing just 6 minutes as Florida attacked him off the bounce throughout the night.

Roberts also had 4 of Georgia's 12 turnovers, which the Gators converted into 17 points. Oquendo led Georgia with 20 points but needed 16 shots and 15 trips to the foul line to reach that total.

“In the first half, everybody was aggressive early," Jones said. "We got a couple stops penetrating baskets and when we got a couple stops and got out in transition and stayed attacking, it change momentum. Even in the second half when they made a little run we finally got rebounds, some stops, stayed aggressive and got the lead back up again.”