DALLAS (AP) – Egor Koulechov watched a heartbreaking NCAA Tournament loss as a freshman at Arizona State.
Four years and two schools later, the graduate transfer from Russia enjoyed his second NCAA experience quite a bit more.
Koulechov scored 20 points and Florida eased past St. Bonaventure 77-62 on Thursday night, ending the Bonnies’ postseason two days after their first NCAA Tournament victory in 48 years.
Jalen Hudson scored 16 points and Chris Chiozza had 11 assists for the sixth-seeded Gators, who have reached the Elite Eight the past five times they’ve been in the tournament. Florida (21-12) will face Texas Tech in an East Region second-round game Saturday.
“This is what I wanted when I came here,” Koulechov said. “We’re obviously not done. Still hopefully a lot of basketball to be played.”
A whirlwind week finally caught up with the Bonnies (26-8), who finished at 35 percent shooting but were in the 20s when the outcome was in doubt.
Courtney Stockard led St. Bonaventure with 14 points after scoring 26 in a win over UCLA in a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday.
Stockard fouled out with 2:10 remaining and left to a standing ovation from Bonnies fans who were still on their feet in the final minutes in sections just across the American Airlines Center court from their team’s bench.
Koulechov spent the previous two seasons at Rice after sitting out a year when he left Arizona State. As a seldom-used reserve, he didn’t get in the game when the Sun Devils lost to Texas on a buzzer-beating follow shot by Texas’ Cameron Ridley in 2014.
The 6-foot-5 guard had his first 20-point game since early January, going 4 of 10 from 3-point range.
“This team, they’ve been awesome,” Koulechov said. “The whole experience, not just the NCAA Tournament. Just the whole year, it’s been amazing.”
Florida trailed 22-21 late in the first half when Mike Okauru hit a 3-pointer to start a 15-0 run that continued after halftime and put the Gators up 36-22.
Hudson soared over Matt Mobley for a put-back dunk and made the free throw after a foul to give Florida its first 20-point lead at 57-37 with about 8 minutes remaining as the Gators bounced from a loss to Arkansas in their SEC Tournament opener.
“It’s always chip on your shoulder when you’re picked to lose in the first round as a higher seed for the second year in a row,” Chiazza said. “It gives you a little more fuel just to go out there and prove them wrong.”
St. Bonaventure: Senior backcourt leaders Mobley and Jaylen Adams weren’t much of a factor in their final games. While Mobley scored 10 points, he was 1 of 9 on 3-pointers. The pair combined to go 5 of 19 from the field, including 1 of 12 from long range. Adams scored 11.
Florida: The Gators rolled without much scoring help from the two most experienced players off last year’s East Regional finalist. Chiozza, who hit the running 3 that beat Wisconsin in the regional semifinals last year, scored eight, but did finish just one off his career high for assists. KeVaughn Allen, who scored a career-high 35 in that win over the Badgers, had seven points. They were a combined 5 of 17 from the field.
ON THE BOARDS
St. Bonaventure’s Idris Taqqee had a career-high 13 rebounds with two blocks. Keith Stone of Florida matched his career best with eight boards and scored nine points. He had 22 points in the loss to Arkansas.
St. Bonaventure, which set a school record for wins by beating UCLA and was an at-large choice out of the Atlantic 10 Conference, was making its first NCAA appearance since 2012 and seventh overall.
While the tired Bonnies go home, the Gators will face a heavily pro-Texas Tech crowd in Dallas. American Airlines Center is about a five-hour drive from the Red Raiders’ Lubbock campus.
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