Florida overcomes slow start, blasts Florida A&M

Will Richard shot Florida out of its doldrums in the first half on his way to scoring 20 points as the Gators overcame an early challenge to beat Florida A&M 89-68 on Tuesday night in Gainesville, Fla.

Walter Clayton Jr. added 18 points and five assists while Alex Condon scored all but one of his 17 points in the second half as Florida (2-1) rebounded from Friday’s loss to Virginia.

With a big game against in-state rival Florida State looming, the Gators came out flat, missing 13 of their first 14 shots. But strong defense allowed Florida to stay within striking distance.

Denzel Aberdeen came off the bench in the first half to help Richard wake the Gators from their early slumber. Aberdeen finished with a career-high 12 points.

Love Bettis scored a game-high 24 points to lead Florida A&M (0-3). Shannon Grant contributed 15 points for the Rattlers.

Despite their crooked shooting in the first six minutes of the game, the Gators hung close, trailing 7-4 before they went on an 8-0 run that included a 3-pointer and a layup by Richard. That provided Florida with a 12-7 lead that it would not relinquish.

After their dry spell, the Gators hit 11 of 17 field-goal attempts to push their lead to 15 points. Aberdeen had three of the buckets and Micah Handlogten added a slam dunk after Julian Rishwain made a steal and a fastbreak feed to the 7-foot-1 transfer from Marshall.

Late in the first half, Florida bumped its advantage up to 34-19 as the team’s top scorer Riley Kugel notched his first points of the game, hitting a 3-pointer, and Richard followed with a putback layup.

Kugel, who entered Tuesday averaging 18.5 points per game, made only 1 of 7 shots, finishing with five points.

After leading 38-28 at the break, Florida took control early in the second half when Clayton hustled for two layups and made a trey as the Gators pushed their lead to 49-36 with 15:46 left.

Later in the half, Condon headlined a 10-2 run with seven points, with Florida going up by 23 with 7:06 to go to put the game out of reach.