No. 6 Florida had no problem with No. 11 St. Bonaventure on Thursday night, dispatching the Bonnies with ease, 77-62, to move on to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a Saturday matchup against No. 3 Texas Tech up next.
The Gators weren’t able to immediately run away and hide from St. Bonaventure, but they turned a five-point halftime lead into a 20-point advantage just past the midway point of the second half.
Florida shot just 41.5 percent from the floor, but forced 18 turnovers as the Bonnies’ offense was stymied.
Egor Koulechov starred for Florida, scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds. Jalen Hudson added 16 points while Keith Stone had nine points and eight rebounds.
The Gators were able to move on despite getting just so-so nights from KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza, who combined for 15 points on 5 of 17 shooting. Chiozza, though, tallied 11 assists.
St. Bonaventure shot 35.4 percent from the floor for the game and made just 3 of 19 shots from 3-point range.
Florida capped off a perfect day for the SEC, which went 4-0 on the tournament’s first day. Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee were all also winners.
The competition steps up significantly Saturday for Mike White’s team. The Red Raiders survived an upset scare by Stephen F. Austin in the first round, but they got a masterful performance from Keenan Evans, who scored 19 points in the second half, and their defense was as strong as its been all season.
Both teams will be content to slow play down and try to out-execute the other. Given both teams are content to play slow and play defense, it could be one of the better knock-down, drag-outs of the tournament’s first week.