If you were hoping for a crisp, clean showing of basketball at the O’Connell Center on Sunday afternoon, you were probably a little disappointed.
Both teams combined to shoot 38-of-113 from the field to go along with 34 total turnovers.
While the sloppy play on both sides was evident, the talent gap was as well. And the Gators were able to ride that edge to their third straight win, 86-40, over an inexperienced Stetson team.
In the first half, the hoops were sealed shut for both teams.
The Gators started 3-of-11 from the field while the Hatters missed 10 of their first 12 shots, which led to a 7-5 UF advantage nearly halfway through the first half.
Florida’s leading scorer Keyontae Johnson was the bright spot in an otherwise forgettable 20 minutes of basketball. The junior had 13 to spearhead a 19-point lead at halftime.
The Gators played fairly well on defense, but Stetson shot the ball historically bad (3-of-26) and was very sloppy (12 turnovers) during the first half, which took the spotlight off Florida’s own showing.
“I thought we gave up a few open looks today,” UF head coach Mike White said. “That won’t be acceptable against any high-level SEC team that you’re trying to beat. There were some straight line drives to the rim, lack of effort on the press, and some ill-advised fouls…But we played harder, and there was definitely more attention to detail, so we took a step.”
Both teams settled in a bit more in the second half and Florida’s lead of 19 grew exponentially as the game wore on.
Florida shot over 50 percent in the half, including 7-of-14 from three. Much of the success from beyond the three-point line came from sharpshooter Noah Locke.
The three-point specialist hit 4-of-5 from three (5-of-6 for the game) to give him 15 points by the end of the contest. He struggled a bit during the first two games, but his teammates and coaches know what he can bring to the table when he’s on.
“He’s such a confident shooter,” White said of Locke. “That’s just what he’s done his entire career. He has swagger to make shots, and it’s nice to see the ball go through the net for him, and I know his teammates like to see it as well.”
Overall, Florida had four players in double figures with Johnson scoring a game-high 19, while Scottie Lewis stuffed the box score with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Ten Gators played double-digit minutes and everyone on the roster got an opportunity to check-in.
It wasn’t the prettiest form of basketball at times, but a 46-point win against anybody is a reason to be happy.
“In the past five years, I don’t know how many games we’ve had in this arena where you’re up significantly and you can play different guys, send messages and hold guys ultra, ultra accountable,” White said. “Whether they’re a junior, a freshman, a starter or the 13th guy on the team. We told these guys these last 48 hours, in terms of missed assignments or selfish shots or whatever, we’re going to the next guy. I thought our guys really handled that well, and we’ll see where that goes moving forward.”
UF (3-0) now prepares for in-state rival Florida State (1-0), who it will play in Tallahassee on Dec. 12. The Gators have lost the last six meetings with the Seminoles.
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