After two consecutive losses, the Florida Gators basketball team was in desperate need of a statement game in the Orange Bowl Classic against Charlotte on Saturday. Those needs were met in a lopsided 87-46 win over the 49ers.
The defense shined, as Florida only allowed Charlotte to shoot 14-for-51 (27.5%) from the field, just 6-for-21 (28.6%) from three, forced 20 turnovers and had more defensive rebounds (30) than the 49ers did total (23). The Gators allowed fewer than 30 points in each half. Much of that can be credited to keeping Charlotte’s leading scorer this season, Jon Davis, off the scoreboard for the entire first half. Davis came into the game averaging 20.2 points per game but finished with just nine points.
“This is what we wanna hang our hat on, using our length and our size, and it’s how we’ve sold out to playing with this team,” said Mike White. “It’s what we’re capable of and we’ve just gotta do it more often. Our attention to detail with defensive rebounding was better than it’s been definitely this season, and maybe even all of last season. They’re a good team. They’re a team that I wanna say was averaging 80 a game. They have a really good backcourt and they’re gonna have their success this year. I thought, especially in the first 20 minutes, I thought we were clicking on all cylinders defensively.”
This game allowed Florida the opportunity to give several guys more minutes than usual. Ten different Gators scored in the game and seven finished with seven or more points. Of all the guy’s given opportunities, Kevarrius Hayes was given the biggest one. John Egbunu was declared out for the game with a hamstring injury, which gave Hayes a chance to start for the first time this season. It was the first time the starting-five was changed at all this season. Hayes took advantage with nine points and five rebounds, but it was no surprise to White that he was up for the challenge.
“He’s really good,” White said. “I thought he took advantage of his opportunity. He’s such a non-selfish guy that he’s over there cheering on Skylar Rimmer and Gorjak Gak, who were given opportunities. Kevarrius, he had a typical Kevarrius line with the amount of minutes that he was given and certainly had an argument, probably, to play even a few more, but he’s not concerned with that.”
No player was on the court more than 23 minutes for Florida and no single player had an outstanding offensive performance. It was just a balance effort. Three players did finish with double-digits. Canyon Barry led the way with 16, Devin Robinson put up 15, and Keith Stone had 10.
This win could put the Gators back in the top-25 next week as they return home for the first time this season, but White said he is not concerned with rankings right now. What he is concerned with is getting back and putting on a good performance against Little Rock for the home crowd on Wednesday night. The wait is finally over and Florida is headed back home after 11 consecutive games on the road this season.
“I’d like to credit my guys,” he said. “I think that they had several opportunities in the last couple months to have a terrible practice, to say ‘hey coach, we need to get away from it for a day or two’. We’ve had no drama. We’ve had no negativity. We’ve had no excuses. Our guys have worked. It has not even been a subject that’s been brought up. I don’t know that we’re the most mature team. We’re a lot more mature today than we were in September and I’m proud of the way our guys have handled the adversity that we’ve had.”