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Mar 21, 2024 9:12 am

No. 7 Florida riding emotion into clash vs. No. 10 Colorado

Florida Gators basketball

INDIANAPOLIS — Seventh-seeded Florida figures to be an inspired group on Friday against 10th-seeded Colorado in a South Region first-round showdown.

The Gators (24-11) finished sixth in the Southeastern Conference in the regular season before making a spirited run in the conference tournament and losing to Auburn in the title game.

Colorado (25-10) defeated Boise State, 60-53, in the final game of the First Four on Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

Florida coach Todd Golden announced center Micah Handlogten will be on the bench cheering on his team. Handlogten sustained a fractured left leg just two minutes into Sunday’s SEC Championship game in Nashville, Tenn. He remained in Nashville and had same-day surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The Gators dropped the game, 86-67, to the Tigers and received an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.

“I think it’ll be a huge lift for him and kind of get his spirits back,” Golden said. “He’s honestly in great spirits, all things considered. But it’s going to be a huge lift for the team also. It obviously shook everybody up a lot. I think we’re still feeling it a little bit.

“But it gives us a great thing to rally around in the tournament. My hope is that the guys want to do everything they can to play their butts off for him on Friday.”

Added teammate Will Richard, “For us, it’s just going out there and playing for him. Micah has done so much for this program. He’s a great guy, great teammate, hard worker.”

Handlogten started 32 of 33 games this season and averaged 5.3 points and 6.9 rebounds. Freshman Alex Condon is expected to pick up the slack in Handlogten’s absence.

Florida has four scorers averaging in double figures, led by guard Walter Clayton Jr. (17.1 points per game). Guard Zyon Pullin averages 15.6 while Tyrese Samuel and Will Richard round out the double-figure scorers at 14.0 and 11.3 points per game, respectively.

Colorado leans primarily on three players and did so Wednesday night in its seven-point win over Boise State.

Tristan da Silva, KJ Simpson and Eddie Lampkin Jr. combined for 52 of Colorado’s 60 points.

“This team is more than just two or three guys,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. “It was two or three that kind of carried the load (vs. Boise State). But J’Vonne Hadley, he’s had (games of) 20-plus points. We know how talented Cody (Williams) is. And Javon Ruffin keeps coming.

“Just had to ride those guys as much as we can. And, again, you’re able to do that in the NCAA Tournament. But they were terrific. And it might be two or three different guys when we play Florida. I’d like it to be five to seven guys that are really clicking and moving. But you get in this tournament and the teams are here for a reason. If you can’t guard, you usually don’t get to this point.”

–Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media

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