GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) With scoring leader Walter Clayton Jr. sitting on Florida's bench, his teammates needed to step up.

Tyrese Samuel and Zyon Pullin took over.

Samuel scored a career-high 28 points, Pullin added 21 and No. 24 Florida never trailed in an 83-74 victory over woeful Missouri on Wednesday night.

Samuel and Pullin scored 23 of the team's final 25 points, taking charge after Clayton fouled out with 14 minutes to play.

“They were just awesome,” coach Todd Golden said. “In tight moments, you want your experienced guys to step up and shoulder a little more of the load. ... They stepped up and made big shots."

The Gators (20-8, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) won for the ninth time in 11 games to reach 20 victories for the first time since the 2017-18 season. The Tigers (8-20, 0-15) lost their 15th in a row and guaranteed a last-place finish in the league as well as the 14th seed in the conference tournament.

Florida has been on the rise for weeks and is now 2-1 - with the lone loss coming at then-No. 13 Alabama in overtime last week - since getting ranked for the first time in Golden’s two seasons.

This one was closer than many expected, though. The Gators were 13 1/2-point favorites but found themselves clinging to the lead after coming out flat to start the second half.

Missouri whittled a double-digit deficit to 55-54 after Nick Honor made three free throws with Clayton on the bench.

Florida’s Will Richard answered with his first 3-pointer of the night after missing six from long range. Pullin followed with another trey, and the Gators started to pull away. Samuel then converted a three-point play and made a layup on consecutive possessions. He finished with 10 rebounds.

All of it came with Clayton cheering from the bench. Clayton picked up his fifth foul on a technical while arguing a defensive foul called against him. He finished with 13 points, five assists and three rebounds.

“I think we played great the stretch," Samuel said. "We didn’t panic. Poise was key. I had a lot of confidence that we were still going to win the game.”

Micah Handlogten chipped in 12 points and 12 rebounds for Florida, which won its seventh straight at home and improved to 13-1 in the O’Connell Center. Pullin rebounded from his worst offensive outing of the season - he scored two points against Vanderbilt on Saturday - and reached double figures for the 27th time in 28 games.

“Having games like this, you can’t relax," Samuel said. "It wakes us up and brings back a little urgency that we need going forward. Sometimes we need games like this, especially when you come out on top.

Added Pullin: “It brings us back to reality a little bit. It shows us our weaknesses and what we got to keep getting better at.”

Sean East II led the Tigers with 20 points. Honor added 18, and Tamar Bates, who torched the Gators for 36 points in their first meeting of the season, finished with 15.

“Second half was a little bit different of a game, but (the Gators) still manufactured what they had to do in a different way," Missouri coach Dennis Gates said.


Missouri: The Tigers have endured several tough losses during their skid, but they weren’t all that competitive in this one. Florida led comfortably in the first half and pulled away down the stretch after Mizzou provided a brief scare.

Florida: The Gators avoided a letdown and prevented what would have been a huge hit to their NCAA Tournament resume. They are one of just a handful of teams in the country to not have a loss outside Quad 1 games.


Missouri: Hosts Mississippi on Saturday.

Florida: At No. 18 South Carolina on Saturday.


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