The Florida Gators opened the season with a dominating 116-74 performance over Gardner-Webb. Egor Koulechov exploded onto the national college basketball radar by pouring in 34 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Though he shouldered the bulk of the offensive load, the Gators had great balance throughout the roster with all 11 of their active players scoring tonight. Treating the home fans in Gainesville with a brisk pace and by throwing down plenty of thunderous dunks, Florida definitively justified the #8 ranking they received in the AP Poll.
In addition to Egor Koulechov’s 6-9 from the land beyond, the entire roster shot the ball extremely well going 15-29 (52%) from 3 and 40-69 (58%) overall. It was clear getting these open looks was a focus of the attack, as we saw many creative actions off of the ball to get shooters open. 3-Point shooting was inconsistent last year, so let’s see if the Gators can keep this going on November 16 against North Florida.
It was clear that controlling the glass was a focus tonight, as supreme effort was shown by players 1-5 when shots went up. This lead to the Gators out-rebounding the Runnin’ Bulldogs 49-32, a trend the coaching staff will hope continues the rest of the season. To put up 116 points you need to play fast, and that’s what Florida did every time they got the basketball. Coach White made sure to really spread out the minutes tonight and having fresh legs out at all times definitely made a difference in the transition game.
With a lot of new faces on the roster this season, Gators fans were treated to fantastic performances from the players they were excited to see for the first time. Here are the lines from all the newcomers tonight:
Egor Koulechov: 34 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds
Jalen Hudson: 16 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Michael Okauru: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists
Chase Johnson: 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block
Deaundrae Ballard: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Dontay Bassett: 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal
The demands Coach White has for the Gators on their own end of the floor are well documented, and they showed some good moments of execution throughout the game. The Gators were noticeably communicating verbally, and the constant switching defense made dribble penetration tough to come by for Gardner-Webb. With 7 steals and 8 blocks, the Gators’ length and athleticism were on full display. Kevarrius Hayes (2 blocks, 1 steal) was definitely the cornerstone of the defense, barking out orders and rotating over quickly to help mop up any mistakes. Coach White has talked about the team needing leaders, and don’t be surprised if Hayes steps up to take on that role.
Stay tuned to Gator Country for coverage from the post game press conference.