Walter Clayton Jr. scored 21 of his team-high 26 points in the second half, lifting Florida basketball to a 77-57 win over Merrimack on Tuesday night at the O’Connell Center.
The Florida Gators (5-3) snapped a two-game losing streak. Florida got off to a slow start, trailing 31-30 at halftime, before outscoring Merrimack (4-6) 47-26 in the second half.
Freshman Alex Condron added 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Gators, while Tyrese Samuel scored 11 points and Zyon Pullin had 10 points.
Jordan Derkack and Sarriba Diallo led Merrimack with 14 points each.
Here are three takeaways from the Florida win:
UF basketball gets off to a sluggish start against Merrimack’s zone
The Gators had problems attacking Merrimack’s 2-3 zone defense early, going 3 of 16 from the floor with 5 live ball turnovers to fall behind 21-11 in the first half. Florida missed its first four 3-point attempts, failing to sink a 3-pointer until Walter Clayton Jr.’s corner 3 cut Merrimack’s lead to 21-16 with 7:22 remaining in the first half.
Florida did close the half strong, with a Kugel 3-pointer putting the Gators up 28-27 with 1:40 remaining. But an offensive rebound and putback by Merrimack forward Bryan Etumnu with 18 seconds left in the half put Merrimack up 31-30 at halftime.
UF basketball takes control of game with 20-0 second half run
Florida took control of the game with a 20-0 run in the second half. Clayton scored eight points during the run, including a 3-pointer that put UF ahead to stay 40-37 and another 3-pointer that extended the UF lead to 47-37 with 12:30 remaining.
UF held Merrimack without a point from the 17:20 mark to the 9:43 mark of the second half, a more than seven-minute stretch. After two free throws from Zyon Pullin put Florida up 54-37, Merrimack finally scored on a Derkack layup with 9:43 remaining to cut UF’s lead to 54-39.
Free-throw shooting still a problem for Florida Gators
Florida made just 10 of its first 19 free-throw attempts and finished the game shooting 60.7 percent (17-28) from the foul line.
The Gators entered the game shooting 66.1 percent from the line on the season.