The Florida Gators started off the 2018-19 season with a difficult test on the road against 17th ranked FSU on Tuesday night. Florida quickly learned that it has a lot of work to do as it fell 81-60.
Even worse for the Gators, the score doesn’t truly indicate just how bad things were in the game.
Florida took an early 6-2 lead, but would never lead again after the Seminoles went ahead 7-6 five minutes into the first half. Both teams struggled to take care of the ball with a combined six turnovers in the first six minutes of play, and that continued throughout the rest of the contest.
Florida simply couldn’t get shots to fall in the first half, but somehow was still only down by five points late in the half.
The Seminoles stretched that lead to 31-20 by halftime. And yes, that’s right. The Gators scored just 20 points in the first 20 minutes.
Florida finished the half shooting 24 percent from the field at an abysmal 6-for-25.
While Mike White was relatively pleased with his team’s defensive effort against a lengthy FSU squad early on, the same could not be said for the second half.
The Gators came out to score the first points and cut the deficit back to single digits, but the Seminoles made it a blood bath the rest of the way.
FSU had its way with Florida’s defense, or lack thereof, making 55.6 percent of its shots in the second half, including 50 percent from deep. On top of that, the Gators committed 26 fouls in the game to give the Seminoles 24 free points from the line.
Florida trailed by as many as 35 in the second half before FSU unloaded its bench to allow the Gators to go on an 11-0 run to finish the game.
“In the second half, we didn’t play with much character,” White said. “To come out and give in defensively like we did showed our staff how far we’ve got to go in terms of character and toughness. And obviously, we’ve gotta find a way to score.”
The Gators knew all along that defense would be a work in progress, but the opener proved a lack of offensive fire power as well.
Florida was sloppy, turning the ball over 16 times, with Andrew Nembhard, Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone giving up four apiece.
On top of that, the veterans did not play anywhere near the standard set for them. Jalen Hudson had 11 points (3-for-10 from the field, 1-for-5 from three), but did next to nothing in the second half, and KeVaughn Allen did not score a single point in 23 minutes on the court while putting up just four shots.
If there were any positives to take away, it would be the play of Nembhard and Deaundrae Ballard.
Ballard finished as Florida’s leading scorer with 13 points (5-for-9 from the field) as he continued to take advantage of his opportunities.
And while Nembhard did have four turnovers, he had four assists and probably should have had more if not for the Gators’ inability to get the ball in the basket. He also put up 12 points (4-for-8 from the field, 2-for-4 from deep) in his debut.
Now, Florida must move on quickly as it heads back home to take on Charleston Southern on Friday night.
“We’re excited to get back home, but boy, this one’s gonna hurt for a bit,” White said. “It’s a long ride home and we will be studying that film. We’ve got a ways to go.”