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Florida cruises past depleted No. 11 Texas A&M for SEC road win

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Florida ran away from No. 11 Texas A&M on Tuesday night as the Gators secured an easy 83-66 SEC road win. The up-and-down Gators earned one of their best wins of the season while the Aggies are still reeling without three of its best players in the lineup.

Here are three takeaways from Florida’s quality road win.

1. FLORIDA’S OFFENSE HAS TO HIT PERIMETER SHOTS 

Florida should have won Tuesday night’s game at Texas A&M strictly by virtue of the Aggies missing three important players (more on that below). While the Gators obviously came away with the win, it should also be noted that Florida completely dominated this game for almost the entire time.

Displaying more intensity on both ends, along with potent perimeter shooting, Florida looked like the team we thought they could be early in the season before a cold stretch sent them on a puzzling tailspin. Shooting 16-for-27 from three-point range, Florida had floor-spacing options all over the floor as they had balanced scoring.

Senior point guard Chris Chiozza (12 points, nine assists) carved up the young and experienced Texas A&M backcourt as he found shooters for open looks and cutters for easy lobs. Egor Koulechov (19 points) and Keith Stone (18 points) both shot the ball at a very high level as they seemed to be playing (and more importantly, shooting) with confidence.

We’ve seen what happens when Florida isn’t hitting shots from the perimeter in an ugly home loss to Florida State. But on this night, the Gators had it rolling from the perimeter and it opened up everything that Florida wanted to do on the offensive end. Florida needs to hit three-pointers at a solid clip to be the best version of themselves.

In wins this season, Florida is shooting 40.7 percent from three-point land. In losses, that number dips to 29.5 percent. If Florida is hitting shots, chances are, they are going to win.

2. TEXAS A&M BADLY NEEDS ITS FULL ROSTER

One of the reasons that Texas A&M finds itself 0-2 in the SEC is the depleted roster the Aggies are currently dealing with. Junior forward D.J. Hogg is finishing a three-game suspension for violating school policy while guards Duane Wilson and Admon Gilder are currently battling knee injuries.

Without those three key pieces, the Aggies got badly exposed against a talented Florida team. Facing a veteran Florida backcourt, Texas A&M’s backcourt of freshmen Jay Jay Chandler, J.J. Caldwell and Savion Flagg struggled as the trio couldn’t get consistent footing on offense while getting burned consistently on defense. Texas A&M entered Tuesday’s game allowing opponents to shot only 27.1 percent from three-point range on the season. Florida shot nearly 60 percent from distance in the win as they got whatever look they wanted.

Obviously, Texas A&M is a significantly better team when three of their four top scorers are on the floor. But the glaring lack of depth also showed that the Aggies are susceptible to getting beat if they ever have to deal with any sort of roster adversity.

Texas A&M had better hope that no injuries or foul problems hit their backcourt during an important game this season because they could be in major trouble if that happens.

3. FLORIDA HAS AN EARLY CHANCE TO MAKE A PUSH UP THE SEC STANDINGS

The SEC has been drunk at the start of 2018.

Ranked teams like Texas A&M and Tennessee now find themselves at 0-2 in the conference standings. Teams like Auburn are looking legitimate.

And Florida now has a chance to capitalize and gain some serious conference momentum after a 2-0 start.

Not only did Florida just pick off one of the SEC’s better teams on the road, but the upcoming schedule isn’t very daunting for Gators. Florida travels to Missouri before hosting Mississippi State and heading to Ole Miss over the next three games. Those are all winnable games for Mike White’s ballclub, meaning the Gators could be sitting pretty at 5-0 in the SEC while the rest of the league beats each other up.

In a potentially tight conference like this, that could mean the difference in winning a conference title. There’s still a long ways to go before we start deeply analyzing conference races. Unforeseen injuries will change things. Kentucky is going to have something to say in all of this as well. But Florida is sitting pretty right now and they have a chance to gain a lot of momentum in the SEC over the next few weeks. Can the Gators capitalize?

Florida lands five-star 2018 guard Andrew Nembhard

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Florida pulled in its first commitment in the Class of 2018 on Monday as Class of 2018 five-star point guard Andrew Nembhard pledged to the Gators on Twitter.

A poised floor general and solid passer with good size and instincts, the 6-foot-4 Nembhard reclassified from the Class of 2019 earlier this year. The No. 26 overall prospect in the Rivals.com national rankings, the Canadian point guard is a strong first commitment for Florida in this class as he’ll help offset the loss of senior Chris Chiozza.

Nembhard is also an important pledge for head coach Mike White as he’s perhaps the strongest point guard that the coach has recruited to date. With the Gators coming off of an Elite Eight appearance and returning plenty of talent this season, it looks like White could have things going pretty well at Florida over the next few years.

Florida’s Devin Robinson heading to NBA Draft and signing with an agent

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Florida junior forward Devin Robinson will declare for the 2017 NBA Draft and sign with an agent.

The 6-foot-8 Robinson was one of the most versatile frontcourt players in the country by the end of last season as he emerged as a major threat on both ends of the floor. Robinson averaged 11.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a junior as he helped Florida advance to the Elite Eight. Robinson shot 47 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range last season.

Without Robinson, Florida’s stock drops quite a bit for next season as they’ll have to replace him in the front court. The Gators could still be in position to be one of the better teams in the country but the loss of Robinson is going to sting.

VIDEO: Did South Carolina get away with a blatant travel after risky full-court pass?

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South Carolina is heading to its first Final Four in school history after a 77-70 win over No. 4 seed Florida in the East Region on Sunday.

But the No. 7 seed Gamecocks’ historic win also came with some late controversy.

With South Carolina clinging to a 70-68 lead with 53.7 seconds left, the Gamecocks opted to make an extremely risky full-court pass on an inbounds play. The pass was caught at the other end of the floor by South Carolina’s Duane Notice.

Then Notice took about four or five steps before he was fouled by Florida’s Chris Chiozza to send him to the line.

It looks like Notice had a pretty blatant travel on the play. It’s a ridiculous catch in traffic that has to make South Carolina football fans proud, but Notice is clearly walking after getting the ball. Notice knocked down two free throws after Chiozza’s foul to make it a two-possession game as it became 72-68 with 50 seconds left.

Florida was obviously flat in the second half and didn’t deserve to win on Sunday. But it makes you wonder what might have happened if a travel was called on Notice. The Gators would have had a chance to tie with under a minute left instead of it being a two-possession game.

Vanderbilt snaps four-game losing streak in upset of No. 19 Florida

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Vanderbilt snapped a four-game losing streak by using a strong second half to take down No. 21 Florida, 68-66, on Saturday afternoon in the SEC.

The Commodores (9-10, 3-4) shot 46 percent from the field and nailed 10 three-pointers as Matthew Fisher-Davis led four double-figure scorers with 19 points. For a young team with a new coach in Bryce Drew, this is a solid victory that he can build off of as his team did a great job of executing offense down the stretch.

This is a bad loss at home for No. 19 Florida (14-5, 5-2) and doesn’t help the weak national reputation of the SEC. Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen lit it up for 29 points for the Gators but Devin Robinson (12 points) was the only other Florida player who finished with double-figures.

As we’ve seen from the Gators the past three seasons, they’re incredibly inconsistent and they have a tendency to show up flat at inopportune times. A lot of that falls on the lack of quality point guard play and the lack of development from former McDonald’s All-American Kasey Hill. Hill isn’t the only Florida player who needs to step up for them to maximize their potential, but this is his final stretch of college ball after an underwhelming career.

Right now, Florida is in position to break a two-year NCAA tournament drought, but losses like this can’t happen again at home if the Gators want to get back in the field.

Florida freshman will miss the season with stress fracture

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Florida freshman forward Dontay Bassett is out for the season with a stress fracture, according to a release from the school.

Bassett will require surgery in his right foot and his projected recovery time will be four-to-six months. The injury will force Bassett to redshirt the 2016-17 season.

A three-star recruit coming out of Oldsmar Christian in Florida, the 6-foot-9 forward wasn’t expected to be a big contributor during his first year with the Gators, but his loss does hurt some of the team’s frontcourt depth. With John Egbunu, Devin Robinson, Justin Leon and Kevarrius Hayes all returning, the Gators should have plenty of players to use in the frontcourt this season without Bassett.

Once Bassett is healthy and able to play next season he showed good athleticism and an ability to hit the glass hard while he was in high school. Bassett should be able to join Florida’s rotation as an energy defender and rebounder right away.