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Florida Gators topple West Virginia in Morgantown, 85-80

The Mountaineers failed to hold off a second half surge by Florida, dropping a fourth straight game to the Gators

NCAA Basketball: Florida at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Big 12/ SEC challenge is always a fun showcase. It’s a bragging-rights matchup between conferences that really doesn’t mean much except a quality non-conference win on Selection Sunday.

Saturday was no different in Morgantown, number eleven West Virginia welcomed unranked, 9-4, Florida to the population-controlled Coliseum.

Despite a monster first half from Derek Culver, the Mountaineers made only 8 of their 28 attempts from downtown (28%). From the floor overall the Mountaineers shot 39%. Culver shot 63%, the rest of the team shot 34%.

What was expected to be a close game proved to be just that from the tip. The first half was a seesaw battle that saw neither team lead by more than four until a Culver free throw put the Mountaineers up five going into the half, 42-37. That free throw capped a dominating first half for the WVU big man as he dominated the paint and went 5-5 from the floor.

The second half was much of the same. Florida made some defensive adjustments and played well in front of the ball. Whether we credit the Florida defense to just blame it on poor shooting, West Virginia didn’t shoot the ball well. Taz Sherman and Miles McBride combined for 20 points on 7-26 shooting. Sean McNeil shot the ball well, scoring 21 points.

West Virginia couldn’t hold off a late Gator surge, leaving the final score 85-80.

Maybe the most surprising box score stat was the fact Sherman and Culver both missed three free throws. Culver was 14-17 and Taz was 2-5. Culver is a 54% free throw shooter on the season and Taz hovers around the 89% mark.

The total rebounding numbers were the same for both teams at 27. West Virginia had six more offensive rebounds.

West Virginia continues running the hardwood gauntlet Tuesday at Iowa State on ESPN+.