Recap: Gators Sharpshooting Propel Florida to Win Over Aggies

Cole Thompson

COLLEGE STATION — Rome wasn't built in a day, but once construction began, the process became apparent. Consider Texas A&M basketball Rome — under remodel but with an exciting future in sight. 

That said, there are going to be areas that will take longer to construct. All of that was prevalent Wednesday night in a 78-61 loss to Florida at Reed Arena. And while the first half showed the potential, the second implosion proved that the Aggies are still in the blueprint process of the remodel. 

“The thing that hurt us the most is they missed 25 balls (field goal attempts) and rebounded 14 of the 25," A&M coach Buzz Williams said. "That’s hard for any team to overcome when the opponent’s offensive rebounding percentage is higher than your defensive rebounding percentage.” 

A&M (11-12, 5-6) headed into halftime with a confident feeling. The team averaged over 40 percent from the field goal range, heading into the second half down by three. 

Just like a clock striking Midnight, A&M went back to their old ways. The team's shooting regressed to 34.8 percent from the field, being out-rebounded and surrendered four turnovers to within the first five minutes of play.

"I think the first half, we came out fighting," freshman Emanuel Miller said. "In the second half, I felt like we could have done a better job of rebounding. That’s just effort. That’s all on us."

Florida's Andrew Nembhard scored 24 points and Florida used a big run early in the second half to secure the lead for his team. Noah Locke would tack on another 21 points from the field goal range to give Florida (15-9, 7-4 SEC) a much needed win on the road. 

Promising potential from Miller was in full-effect in front of the home crowd. During the second half, a pair of 3-pointers from the Canadian would tie the game with 18 minutes left. The Gators would respond quickly, going on 14-4 run following, leading to a 53-41 lead.  

Miller would finish with a team-high 19 points while senior Josh Nebo would score 12. Savion Flagg, who struggled in recent games, broke out for 11 points, including a pair of 3's.

“I think during those times we’ve got to stay disciplined and really focus in on us and not worry much about other teams,” Miller said. “I think down the stretch we just have to execute our plays and continue playing Texas A&M basketball. That’s us flying around, getting stops and doing anything we can do to win.”

As the rebuild continues, Williams ran into an old foundation piece from his time in Blacksburg, Va. Former Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear spent four seasons with the Aggies coach before leaving the program as a graduate transfer to join the Gators. 

The senior would finish with eight points and three rebounds. Emotions would be high for the two, but Florida's Mike White credited the maturity of his new player for staying focus on the future instead of sticking with the past. 

"He said: ‘we need a ‘W' I'm more concerned about how we're playing and how I can help this team win,'" White said. "He's a really really good kid ... and I don't know where we'd be without him." 

Florida would lead as high as 23 points in the closing minutes of the second half. Despite poor shooting from the field goal range, it was the poor rebounding from A&M's side. The Gators would take away 14 rebounds off 25 shots in the second half. 

"That's hard for any team to overcome," Williams said.

The Aggies will remain home for a Saturday rematch against Georgia. The two schools met last month in Athens, where potential No.1 pick Anthony Edwards would score his second double-double on the season in a team victory. 

Tipoff will take place at 2:30 p.m. at Reed Arena. The game will be nationally televised on SEC Network.