Florida puts end to losing streak with win over Cincinnati
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Seconds after the final buzzer sounded, more than a couple of players on No. 5 Florida exhaled deeply.
When your team is that highly ranked, avoiding a four-game losing streak deserves a sigh of relief.
Chris Chiozza scored the final six points of the game and the Gators sidelined what would have been their first four-game slide since late in coach Mike White’s first season with a 66-60 victory over No. 17 Cincinnati on Saturday in the second game of the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center.
“I didn’t realize we had a three-game losing streak,” White quipped. “I’m sure there is a sense of relief. Did it provide a sense of urgency? Probably. When the horn blows I’m sure our guys had a sense of relief. We seemed to make plays down the stretch that we needed to.”
Chiozza put the Gators (6-3) ahead 62-60 with a drive across the lane with 1:12 to play.
The senior guard added two free throws with 20.1 seconds to go and he closed out the scoring with a fastbreak layup after a turnover by Cincinnati (7-2), which lost its second straight game.
“I’m not trying to take the game over at all,” Chiozza said. “I just was trying to play for my team. And I just happened to get a lateral break out from Jalen (Hudson) and two free throws and a layup. I just had a chance to get one. I wasn’t really looking for shots. I was just trying to make good plays and then just fell into my hands.”
Egor Koulechov had 21 points to lead Florida. Hudson added 17 and Chiozza finished with 15 and six assists.
Backup guard Cane Broome had 15 points to lead Cincinnati. Jacobs Evans III added 13, Kyle Washington had 11 and Jarron Cumberland 10. Gary Clark had nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
“It becomes a one-possession game and when that happens, you can look back to a million things,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “Break down here, break down there, but at the end of the day, they were just a little bit better than us.”
After Chiozza gave Florida the lead, Evans missed a jumper. Florida then milked the clock and Keith Stone slammed a dunk attempt against the back of the rim. The ball bounded to the sideline, where Hudson got the rebound.
Chiozza was quickly fouled and Cincinnati never recovered.
After Cincinnati tied the game at 40-all early in the second half on a basket by Evans, neither team led by more than four points until the final margin.
Koulechov scored 11 points and Hudson had nine in the opening half in helping Florida take a 34-28 lead.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats played better than in their 89-76 loss to Xavier last week. However, they had a season-high 21 turnovers and missed way too many open looks, including Evans’ jumper that would have tied the game at 62.
Florida: While the skid is over, Florida is very thin. Chiozza had to play 36 minutes and Koulechov 35 to get this win. The bench was outscored 17-6 and had an advantage inside. The Gators have to hope that senior center John Egbunu finishes the rehab on his knee soon and plays for the first time this season.
THE FIRST GAME
Angel Delgado had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 19 Seton Hall continued its impressive start to the season with a 90-67 victory over Virginia Commonwealth. All five Pirates starters scored in double figures led by Myles Powell and Desi Rodriguez with 17.
Cincinnati returns home to face undefeated Mississippi State, which will be playing its first road game.
Florida returns home to play Clemson, which at 8-1 is off to its best start since 2008-09.