Holton, who was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules, had been a vital piece of West Virginia’s success this season, and his absence was clearly felt today.
Florida controlled this game from the opening tip to the final buzzer, sending the Mountaineers home with their fourth loss of the season.
The Gators jumped out to a double digit lead in the early going as a result of some white hot shooting, and built a 45-30 lead heading into halftime. It was West Virginia’s largest halftime deficit of the season to date.
“We weren’t very good today. We weren’t very good today…We just sometimes kind of float through some things,” said head coach Bob Huggins.
“We didn’t guard. Our pressure is close to non-existent anymore. We’ve got guys worried about fouling…You can’t play this way without playing like your hair is on fire. We didn’t do that today.”
The issues that have plagued West Virginia all year – foul trouble and turnovers – were magnified today against Florida. Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip each picked up three fouls before the first half was through, and had to be used cautiously for the rest of the game.
Despite their foul situations, Paige and Phillip both had good days in terms of scoring. Coming off the bench, the pair had 15 points apiece, but West Virginia didn’t get much balance from the rest of its lineup today. The rest of WVU’s bench was outscored 22-2 by Florida’s reserves.
The Gators torched West Virginia from beyond the arc in this game. Twelve of the Gators’ 26 made field goals were from beyond the arc, and they converted at a 60-percent clip from deep. The Mountaineers made just one fewer field goal than the Gators on the day, but made five fewer 3s and 10 fewer free throws which proved to be the difference in the game.
Junior forward Devin Williams broke out of his recent slide with a double-double, scoring 12 points and securing 13 rebounds. Williams was hassled in the post all day with double teams and tenacious defensive effort from the Gators, which resulted in a rough afternoon shooting the ball. He made just four of 15 shots on the afternoon.
“It’s hard to score over size. That’s’ why the NBA has all those bug guys. Unless you’ve got a team that has world class shooters, the other way to win is to have size and try t make people score over size. We didn’t score over size,” Huggins said.
Dorian Finney-Smith led the charge for the Gators with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists. He made five of his seven 3-point attempts and five of six from the free throw line.
Filling in for Jonathan Holton, Nate Adrian had his second-straight double digit scoring game with 10 points on four of five shooting from the field.
Adrian took over at the top of the press for WVU today, but wasn’t able to cause the same amount of havoc as Holton typically does. The Mountaineers turned the ball over 18 times, and were only able to turn Florida over 14 times.
The road ahead is a tough one for West Virginia. The Mountaineers will travel to Iowa State for a Tuesday night game at Hilton Coliseum, then take one Baylor at home the following weekend. To cap a three-game gauntlet, West Virginia travels to Phog Allen Field House to take on a Kansas team that will be hungry for revenge Feb. 9.
“We’re going to have to do what we’re supposed to do at Iowa State because we can’t outscore them,” Huggins said.