The Gators moved to 2-1 on the season with a 82-69 win over La Salle on Wednesday, taking care of business on their home floor against a veteran laden Explorers team. Jalen Hudson was the leading scorer for the Gators with 15 while Kevarrius Hayes and Keyontae Johnson were just behind with 12 each. Though La Salle was able to keep the game close in the first half the Gators came out in the second with some fire and put the game out of reach. Orlando native Pookie Powell led the game with 16 points for the Explorers.
Feeding The Bigs
The Gators got some nice buckets off post ups, something that we haven’t seen in a long time. Kevarrius Hayes had 12 points on 5-5 shooting and showed some great touch on the block, finishing with smooth hook shots and quick fadeaways. Scoring one-on-one down low has never been a strength for Hayes but this could be a great confidence booster for him. Isaiah Stokes also had some affective moves on the block with a couple buckets and a few plays where the defense was forced to hack him to prevent a layup. If the Gators can get production from their frontcourt the offense will be much improved from last season.
Scoring The Orange
Their most efficient offensive game of the season, the Gators shot 55.6% from the field while getting to the line a ton and converting a neat 19-26 (73.1%) of them. The three-ball still hasn’t been kind to the Gators as they only went 3-13 but they were able to get some easy baskets off cuts and score in transition in a way that shows they are steadily improving on that end.
Florida’s young players were on full display with Andrew Nembhard (26), Isaiah Stokes (15), and Noah Locke (12) all got major minutes. Stokes had what was probably the best game of his young career and his 15 minutes shows his conditioning is at least at a manageable level. Locke showed great defensive ball pressure and Nembhard contributed 7 assists as the young players showed how effective they can be right now.
Senior KeVaughn Allen had another disappointing outing with 0 field goals, though he went 8-8 from the free throw line. Keith Stone was quiet as well going 1-2 from the field. I’m not sure what’s up with the veterans but they’ll hopefully be ready for some tougher competition moving forward.
Finding His Legs
The Gators have continued to massage Chase Johnson into the lineup coming off injury and his 6 minutes were effective tonight as he chipped in 6 points and 3 rebounds. He’s an active and physical player and when he’s fully healthy he could really change the complexion of the frontcourt.
The Gators will be getting prepared for their trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, possibly the highlight of their non-conference schedule. They’ll take on Oklahoma and then either Stanford or Wisconsin, giving them multiple opportunities for resume boosting wins. If the Gators can run off a few wins in the Bahamas then they could find themselves in the AP Top-25.