With the win the Gators will face Purdue, a 61-39 winner over Old Dominion in the Sunday afternoon tournament championship game.
This was a game that forced first year coach Mike White to get the most out of his bench as Florida was plagued by foul trouble that sent Kasey Hill to the bench with his fifth with 3:27 remaining in the game. Center John Egbunu, who was a dominant force on the backboards and defensively in the second half, picked up two fouls in the first five minutes of the game and got his third with 18:01 left in the game.
Egbunu finished the game with 6 points, 6 rebounds and 1 blocked shot, getting all six of his points in the final 4:32. Hill had 13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals.
White got 28 points, 21 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals from his bench.
The Gators were also plagued by poor shooting from the 3-point line, hitting only 8-32 for the game, but Chris Chiozza hit a clutch 3-ball with 3 seconds left in the first half to give the Gators a 34-33 lead at the intermission, Hill hit a long bomb just before he fouled out to give the Gators a 59-56 lead with 6:23 to go, and Finney-Smith drained a 3-ball with 1:22 remaining that all but sealed St. Joseph’s fate.
Florida went into an offensive funk in the final 3:39 of the first half. After Kevarrius Hayes scored a layup with 3:39 to go to give Florida a 31-28 lead, the Gators didn’t score again until Chiozza nailed his 3-ball at the end of the half. In between scores, the Gators were 0-3 from the field and turned the ball over twice, allowing
St. Joe’s to make a 5-0 run to take the lead.
The Gators had another scoring drought in the second half. Following the free throw that completed a 3-point play by Chiozza with 14:35 to go for a 46-40 UF lead. The Gators didn’t score again until Finney-Smith knocked down a 3-ball with 10:25 to go that put the Gators in front again, 49-47.
Finney-Smith and Hill led the Gators scoring with 13 points each. In addition to his points, Finney Smith contributed 6 rebounds and 1 assist. Devin Robinson came off the bench to score 12 points and grab a game-high 10 rebounds. Chiozza had 7 points and 4 assists off the bench.
For the game, the Gators shot 26-68 (38.2%) from the field, 8-32 (25%) from the 3-point line and 14-20 (70%) from the foul line. Florida outrebounded St. Joseph’s 46-35. St. Joseph’s shot 22-55 (40%) from the field, 3-18 (16.7%) from the 3-point line and a poor 16-27 from the foul line.