WHAT HAPPENED: The Musketeers put five players in double-figure scoring, led by 16 points from senior guard Nate Johnson, and it was more than enough to overtake and easily put away the visiting, ice cold-shooting Gators in the second half on the way to a second-round victory Sunday in the National Invitational Tournament at Cintas Center in Cincinnati. The loss ended Florida's season and brief "interim" coaching stint of Al Pinkins, who took over last weekend when Mike White, after seven seasons, left for Georgia. The program now falls to incoming Coach Todd Golden, by way of the University of San Francisco, who was announced Friday as White's replacement. UF, which finished the season 20-14, shot 32.8 percent for the game, but just 22.2 in the second half and went one of 19 from the 3-point line. The Musketeers countered with better than 52 percent after intermission. In addition to Johnson, 7-foot forward Jack Nunge tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists, as the Musketeers (20-13) won easily despite committing 18 turnovers. Florida was led by freshman guard Kowacie Reeves' 14 points, plus 10 each from fifth-year senior guard Tyree Appleby and senior forward Colin Castleton, both of who likely played their final game in UF uniforms. The Gators fell behind by double-digits midway through the first half, with the Musketeers taking a 21-11 lead, courtesy of four turnovers that all led to Xavier baskets. UF, though, slowly chipped away at the margin and went to the locker room tied at 33 after a rebound and coast-to-coast layup by Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (9 points, 8 rebounds) at the halftime buzzer. And that, basically, was where the game ceased being competitive. The Musketeers scored the first seven points of the second half and eventually went up nine. A driving layup by UF guard Niels Lane at the 14:39 mark cut Xavier's lead back to seven, 47-40, but the Gators' next field goal came at the 6:15 mark, as UF went on absolutely Arctic spell by missing 11 of 12 shots, including nine straight during one stretch and falling back by a dozen. The Gators got no closer the rest of the way.
WHAT IT MEANS: The curtain now goes up on the Golden era.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Golden did a live Zoom interview with the ESPN crew after the second media timeout of the first half. The Gators were down and playing poorly at the time, so it probably was as interesting for offered Florida fans as anything that was going on in the game.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: Going eight minutes and 24 seconds without a field goal isn't going to end well. UF shot a solid 46.4 in the first half, including 5-for-11 from distance (.455), but the second half was a clang fest, as the Gators made just eight of their 36 attempts from the floor, for their worst shooting display in a half this season.
UP NEXT: Golden is expected to arrive in Gainesville on Monday and meet with his new team later in the evening. It's going to be a fascinating next few weeks ... and offseason.