Florida scored less than 70 points 16 times during the 2010-11 season, but it didn’t even take the Gators a half to eclipse that mark in its exhibition game against Catholic University on Thursday night.
Using a barrage of first-half threes, the Gators jumped out to a 70-29 halftime lead before cruising to a 114-57 win over the Cardinals. The Gators seemingly couldn’t miss.
“When everybody does that, it’s beautiful,” freshman guard Brad Beal said. “Everybody’s having fun, you see us jumping up and down. That’s really what makes us a team. We’re very unselfish and everybody hits shots.”
Florida was 14-of-24 from the three-point line in the first half and finished the game 20-of-40. The Gators’ season-high three-point total a year ago was 11, a mark Florida destroyed in its exhibition opener.
Beal was excellent in his debut for the Gators, scoring eight points on 2-of-3 shooting while notching three assists in just the first 10 minutes of the game.
He finished with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while also chipping in five assists and one rebound.
“Long time coming. I was real excited,” he said. “Just having a sense of like the whole crowd and everything that’s there, this is something that I’ve been dreaming of. It finally came true. I’m just real excited, and I had fun out there.”
Beal wasn’t the only newcomer who had a big impact for the Gators in his unofficial debut. Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario had a big game after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Rosario finished with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting, adding six assists along the way.
“It reminded me a lot of my high school team when we had a lot of depth like all the guards we have here,” he said. “It felt good to just be out there, just having fun, distributing the basketball and just playing good basketball.”
Florida scored more points in the game Thursday than it did in any game last season. The Gators scored 105 points against North Carolina A&T, but failed to eclipse the 100-point mark in any other games.
“We didn’t see that coming,” Rosario said. “Seeing that today, I know when we’re on, we’ll shoot the ball very well. But when we’re off, we’ll have to look out for other things we can do to win the game.”
Kenny Boynton led Florida in scoring with 21 points, while Erik Murphy scored 17, Erving Walker scored 15, Patric Young scored 10, Will Yeguete scored nine and Casey Prather scored four.
If there was one negative in the dominant showing by Florida, it was that a handful of players got into early foul trouble against a smaller Catholic team.
Beal fouled out with 7:10 remaining, while Young finished with four fouls, picking up his third foul less than two minutes into the second half.
“He’s been pretty good. In our scrimmage against UCF, he had two fouls in 40 minutes,” Donovan said of Young. “He did a really nice job and he was effective and physical. I think it’s going to be a learning process for Patric. The biggest thing I’m trying to get him to eliminate is the silly fouls.”
Florida is limited on bodies in the frontcourt this season after losing three seniors following a run to the NCAA Elite Eight, and getting Young and the rest of the team to stay out of foul trouble will be one of the keys to the season.
The Gators finished last year as the only team in the nation not to have a player foul out, mostly due to their depth in the frontcourt.
However, that’s a statistic that will likely end fairly soon if Thursday’s exhibition or the lack of depth in the frontcourt are any indication.
Donovan has also stressed to his team that he’d like to see them get better rebounding the ball. Florida finished with a slight edge in rebounding, pulling down 36 boards to Catholic’s 31.
“I still feel like the biggest challenge for our team is the rebounding,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to do a better job there in that area.”
Young and Prather each finished with seven rebounds, while Boynton added four and a quartet of players finished with three.
While Florida debuted a new lineup in the exhibition opener, a familiar face for Donovan was in uniform for the opposing team.
Florida’s head coach faced his son, Billy Donovan, a sophomore guard for the Cardinals. Donovan earned the start and played well for Catholic, finishing with a team-high 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and three assists.
“I told Rosario if [Billy] scores one more point, I’m going to give him your picture, (and) he’s going to post it in his dorm room,” the Florida coach joked.
After giving Donovan the start, Catholic coach Steve Howes allowed Donovan to play for 27 minutes, receiving a loud round of applause when he was announced in the lineup and again when he left the floor with about 30 seconds left.
The elder Donovan beamed when asked about his son following the game.
“I was really, really proud of him. I thought he played aggressive,” the Gators’ coach said. “I think it was a hard situation for him to walk into. I really did not know what to expect. The thing that I was most pleased with was that he really was not overwhelmed in this situation. I think he just tried to do what his coaches and his team asked him to do.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore guard was disappointed with the lopsided loss after the game and wanted to see his team build on the performance.
Still, he admitted the moment was special for him when he left the floor to a huge round of applause with several family members in attendance, including his mother Christine, who was wearing a Catholic T-shirt.
“That was really special,” he said. “I pretty much grew up here and (Florida) has some of the best fans I have ever seen.”