FINALS: West Virginia 84, Florida 55



WHAT HAPPENED: Forward Tre Mitchell scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, guard Eric Stevenson threw in 15 points, including his first three 3-point attempts, and the Mountaineers passed the Gators in their final game of the Phil Knight Legacy Sunday night at the Chiles Center in Portland, Oregon. Florida fell 16 points behind in the first half. He managed to halve the lead by the break, but West Virginia came out of the dressing room on fire. The Mountaineers opened the half by hitting five of their first seven shots (including all three 3s) and eight of the first 10 (all four 3s) to go 64-37 with 27 points after just under six minutes. WVU shot 50.0 percent from both the floor and 3-point line in the second half while capping the Gators at 34.5 percent for the game but 29.0 after halftime (9 of 31) and only 11.8 percent from deep (2 of 31). 17). The Mountaineers also worked the Gators on the glass and won the rebound fight 49-28 (15-6 on offensive end). It didn’t help that both of UF’s “bigs,” 6-foot-11, stand out Colin Castleton and 6-11 backup Jason Jitoboh, were announced with three and four fouls respectively in a first half in which WVU had a seven foul bonus at 13:18, then a double bonus at 11:19 before halftime. Florida was led by fifth-year point guard Kyle Loftons Season best 17 points. Castleton, who came to the tournament as the nation’s top scorer at 25.3 points per game, was held to just three points (1-for-6 floor) and five rebounds in 18 foul-ridden minutes. junior guard Trey Bonhamwho averaged 21.0 points in his first two tournament games, finished with three points and battled the Mountaineers’ physicality as he went 0-on-9 off the floor.

Sophomore Guard Will Richard (5), the transfer from Belmont, was the most consistent gator over the three Portland games.

WHAT IT MEANS: Not much to say. This is one you’ll just want to “flush,” but it also revealed some flaws on both ends of the floor. The Gators went 1-2 in this very prestigious tournament, but this one will make for one loooong Return flight from the Pacific Northwest.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: WVU trainer Bob Huggins, the second-winning active coach in Division I basketball, who earned his 921st career win but won first in four tries against the Gators, going 6-1 on the season. The three previous losses all came from one of his former players, the former UF assistant and Mountaineers point guard Darris Nichols, readying the scout and providing some valuable “Huggy Bear” intel. Nichols is now the head coach at Radford.

AMAZING STATISTICS: The 29-point loss was the biggest by a Florida team since a 91-56 loss (and 35-point difference) in Tennessee on Feb. 10, 1999. That was Coach Billy Donovans first NCAA tournament team. Castleton’s three points equaled his least as an alligator. He scored three goals against Boston College in a win at “Bubbleland” on December 3, 2020 in Uncasville, Connecticut, his second game in a UF uniform.

NEXT: Florida (4-3) will make a red-eye return to Gainesville, arriving around dawn. The Gators are off Monday under NCAA rules but will return to practice Tuesday and prepare for a Wednesday night home game against Florida A&M outside of the Southwest Athletic Conference. UF vs. FAMU’s first date won’t do much for the Gators’ NET. The Rattlers (1-4) currently sit 359th in the table KenPom Rankings (out of 363), with losses of 35 in Oregon, 37 in Portland, 17 in Oregon State and 26 in Miami. FAMU’s only win was a 70-65 overtime loss to Division II Albany (Ga.) last Monday.