The Florida Gators basketball squad opened their 2023-24 season with a resounding 93-73 victory over Loyola Maryland on Monday night at the Exactech Arena. Under the guidance of head coach Todd Golden, the Gators showcased the elevated potential of their rebuilt roster, leaving no room for doubt regarding their aspirations for the season.
Riley Kugel Shines
Riley Kugel lived up to expectations, delivering an outstanding performance with a game-high 23 points and a career-high six steals. It’s exactly the kind of start to show that he’s poised for a remarkable season.
Micah Handlogten’s Stellar Performance
Sophomore forward Micah Handlogten proved to be a vital asset for the Gators, contributing 16 points on a remarkable 7-of-8 shooting. His play extended beyond scoring, as he also secured six boards, solidifying his importance to the team’s success.
Dominating from the Start
From the opening tip, the Gators displayed their dominance, swiftly building a commanding 22-5 lead over the Greyhounds. Their impressive transition offense and consistent ability to disrupt Loyola Maryland’s shot attempts around the basket set the tone for the entire game.
Impressive Three-Point Shooting
Handlogten, who had a meager nine percent three-point shooting record as a freshman at Marshall University, made a significant impact by knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the second half, pushing the Gators to a 20-point lead with more than 15 minutes remaining.
Strength in Three-Point Shooting
The Gators’ three-point shooting was not limited to Handlogten, as other members of the team contributed beyond the arc. This aspect of the offense is expected to be one of the team’s strengths throughout the season. Julian Rishwain, returning from a significant knee injury, made a noteworthy contribution with a three-pointer during his limited playing time. Starting point guard Walter Clayton Jr. showcased his all-around skills, finishing with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals.
Impressive Collegiate Debut
Australian forward Alex Condon, making his collegiate debut, impressed by converting consecutive three-point attempts in the first half, ultimately amassing 13 points in just 17 minutes. Condon briefly left the game due to a cramp, but his contribution was pivotal to the Gators’ victory.
Resilience and Depth
During the game, both Condon and Kugel briefly left the court due to physical issues, highlighting the importance of the team’s depth. The 20-year-old freshman Haugh stepped up when Condon briefly left the game, demonstrating his ability to drive to the rim and finish under contact.
Free Throw Struggles
While the Gators dominated the game, their performance at the free-throw line left room for improvement, as they finished 15-of-30 from the line against the Greyhounds. Nonetheless, their overall performance hardly showed any signs of vulnerability against an overmatched opponent.
The Gators have a chance to make some early season noise and are gearing up for their next challenge. They will face off against Virginia in Charlotte, with the game scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the action on the ACC Network as the Gators aim to make a statement early in Golden’s second season.
What they said
Head Coach Todd Golden