In four meetings between Florida and UConn since November 2013, the Huskies’ four wins had come by a total of 18 points.
On Wednesday night in the O’Dome, the best UConn team of five to have seen Florida in the last decade — one that looks better than an eventual national champion, maybe significantly so — thrashed the Gators by 21, outclassing maybe the worst of those five Florida teams from 40:00 to 0:00 in a comprehensive 75-54 win.
What didn’t the Huskies do right on the night? It’s hard to say.
Adama Sanogo contributed 17 points and seven rebounds, consistently excellent underneath and more than capable of looking like an All-American even against Colin Castleton — and reserve big man Donovan Clingan was even more dominant, his 15 points coming along with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. With Castleton held mostly in check and forced to labor for every one of his 12 points (on 14 shots) and eight rebounds and Jason Jitoboh kept mostly on the bench despite three points and three rebounds in his eight minutes, UConn’s frontcourt bested Florida’s convincingly.
And then there was the wing and guard play. Florida got 13 points each from Alex Fudge and Riley Kugel, two of just three Gators to sink threes in the game, but Kowacie Reeves being the third and mustering just seven points was still better than Will Richard being held scoreless and point guards Trey Bonham and Kyle Lofton combining for four points and two assists in their 21-minute stints.
UConn’s Jordan Hawkins outscored all of Reeves, Richard, Bonham, and Lofton by himself, flying around screens all game to earn his 15 points, and five Huskies hit threes, with Joey Calcaterra scoring 11 points off the bench to complete his team’s quartet of double-figure scorers.
Those four players — Sanogo, Clingan, Hawkins, and Calcaterra — combined for 58 points, which would have been enough to beat a Gators outfit that shot just 31 percent from the field and 27 percent from three while struggling to find good looks against a stifling Huskies defense. UConn, which had five players that saw the floor go scoreless, didn’t need its considerable depth to contribute much at all; Florida, which had all of Richard, Lofton, CJ Felder, and Myreon Jones go scoreless, sorely needed something, anything, from at least one more scorer.
Instead, the Gators got a valiant effort that was helpless against a viciously effective and efficient team, with the 30-15 lead that the Huskies had secured with 4:02 left in the first half — built by 9-0 and 8-0 runs — never again getting cut to single digits, with UConn seemingly answering every surge by Florida, no matter how small.
Of course, Florida making just 18 of 28 free throws — and only two of its first seven — did not help any comeback attempts. But on the whole, the Gators competed well enough to have a chance — matching UConn with eight offensive rebounds, giving up 12 turnovers and nine steals but forcing 15 and eight by the Huskies — and shot poorly enough, with many of their attempts being low-quality looks, that they never really had a prayer.
This was, then, a far better effort from Florida than the pathetic one it put together in losing to West Virginia in Portland. There might be solace to take from that.
But two 20-point losses in 10 days for these Gators — who had suffered just one such defeat over the two decades prior to this season, in an Elite Eight game against the national runner-up — have revealed that this team might need to get much better to have any chance at the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
Their opponent on Wednesday might just win it.