Florida Gators dominate season opener 93-73 over Loyola-Maryland

by | Nov 7, 2023 | 0 comments

Riley Kugel, Florida Gators Basketball

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.

Next Challenge

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

On the win…
“I don’t think we played as well as we had in the first couple of scrimmages, to be honest. I think a little jittery, a little bit of nerves that way. Defensively, we weren’t as physical as I thought we needed to be. Then, obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball well from the line at all. That can be an issue moving forward. It wasn’t tonight, but as we play the tougher teams on our schedule, we just have to take advantage of the line better than we did tonight.”
On struggling from the line…
“We struggled a little bit that way in the scrimmages. [Walter Clayton Jr.] I think is a little more of an aberration I don’t anticipate. I think he shot 97% from the foul line last year or something like that, so I don’t anticipate him having issues moving forward. But our front court has struggled a little bit that way. We will continue to address it. This team will get to the line more. We are a little more athletic. We have more opportunities to finish at the rim and we got to take advantage of those moments better than we did tonight.”
Sophomore G Riley Kugel
On his well-rounded performance…
“I’m definitely more than just a scorer. I feel like last year you all just saw a tiny glimpse of my game, and now this is the year that I get to show you all that I have to bring to the table. It’s just the start, I still have a lot to improve upon… I feel like I get better each year, just from the confidence that I gain each year. It really just starts with the guys around me, and being able to click and mesh with them.
Photo credit: Ashley Ray, UAA Communications

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