The Florida Gators got out to a rocky start in a loss at FSU earlier this week, but regrouped with a win in the home opener over the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Friday.
Of course, it wasn’t the same caliber opponent the Gators faced in the Seminoles, but defeating the Bucs was a huge boost for the confidence of this team.
It all started with senior KeVaughn Allen scoring Florida’s first six points of the game. After not scoring at all and only putting up four shots against FSU, he made three shots within the first three minutes of Friday night’s game.
Deaundrae Ballard was the first player to come in off the bench, and he scored five straight points to make it a 12-5 lead for the Gators.
The Bucs kept it close as Florida struggled to make shots in the first half, but a scoring drought of nearly three minutes helped the Gators take a 16-point advantage to the locker room.
After finishing the first half on a strong note defensively, Florida kept that going early in the second half.
From the 2:57 mark in the first half to the 12:46 mark in the second, CSU did not score a single point, and it didn’t make a field goal for two more minutes after that. The Bucs missed 19 consecutive shots from the field during that stretch.
Meanwhile, Florida led by as many as 36 points before ultimately putting a 76-46 win in the books.
The Gators held the Bucs to 25.5 percent (14-for-55) from the floor and just 17.9 percent (5-for-28) from long range.
“We had a long stretch of multiple lineups with consistent defensive efforts,” said head coach Mike White. “I’m very pleased with the way that we guarded for pretty much the entire game tonight. I thought that we were really connected.”
Florida’s offensive performance wasn’t its greatest of all-time, but White liked the shot selection he saw, especially compared to how bad the Gators were in that area on Tuesday.
Allen finished as the leading scorer with 14 points (6-for-11, 2-for-6 from three) and an impressive defensive outing as he accounted for 5 of Florida’s 12 steals.
“I think KeVaughn Allen set the tone for us from the tip,” White said. “I thought he was our best player tonight. He was terrific. He played with a different level of aggression offensively. And I think he got himself going defensively, which I think is something he’ll learn to hang his hat on more. But he led us with his effort.”
A close second behind Allen’s performance was freshman Andrew Nembhard. He didn’t light up the scoreboard, but led the team with 7 rebounds and had 6 assists to just a single turnover. He had for two steals as well.
Following the game, White said Nembhard played even better than his stat line indicated.
Ballard (12) and Jalen Hudson (10) were Florida’s other double figure scorers. Hudson got most of his points from the free throw line and missed several open shots throughout the night, but White seemed pleased with his overall effort.
“I thought Jalen actually passed the ball to get better ones and the ball actually found its way back to him for open ones,” he said. “He didn’t force the issue. I thought he was much better tonight … He played like a senior. He played like a more mature guy and played well.”
This game gave the Gators a lot to build on, but there is still plenty that needs to improve and things other teams on the upcoming schedule will be able to take advantage of a bit more than CSU did.
“It’s definitely a good bounce back,” Nembhard said. “But it’s just a small step for what we’re trying to achieve here.”
Florida will have one more home game against La Salle next Wednesday to tune up before heading to the Bahamas for Battle 4 Atlantis.