Though it wasn’t the most flammable performance we’ve seen from the Gators this season the offense definitely came alive in spurts as they cruised to a 77-56 win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Noah Locke continued his hot shooting season with 15 points on 5-9 shooting (all three point attempts) while Kevarrius Hayes was impactful down low with 12 points (5-5 shooting), 7 boards, and 3 blocks. Particularly impressive was the fact the Gators kept the Eagles to 2-14 shooting from behind the arc, a shockingly low number of both makes and attempts for a Florida Gulf Coast team that loves to let the threes fly. After a somewhat turbulent December the Gators now get to go into Christmas with a smile on their face with a satisfying performance in this Orange Bowl Classic.
A First For Everything
It took a few seasons but Mike White finally got his first technical foul while head coach of the Gators. I’m not entirely sure what lead to him getting fired up and forcing the ref to give him a technical but let me tell you, it was a good one. While the play was flowing away from the Gators’ side of the floor Coach White used his explosive foot speed to sprint ahead of the ref heading down the floor, forcing the ref to see him so White could say his piece. Though it was an athletic feat from what could be one of the fastest coaches in college basketball the ref didn’t seem particularly amused and swiftly T’d him up.
I’m still waiting to get clarification on what happened to Andrew Nembhard to warrant the heavy tape job on his left hand but whatever it was didn’t seem to bother him and he was still pounding the basketball and dropping dimes like his usual self. Particularly impressive was a no-look dart he threw with that injured hand to Deaundrae Ballard who was able to lay the ball in with ease. Hopefully a few days off gives Nembhard a chance to heal from whatever that ailment is.
His stat line of 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists might not immediately leap off the page to you but I thought Keyontae Johnson was awesome tonight. He was attacking closeouts regularly with ease, finding seams in Florida Gulf Coast’s zone, and breaking down the defense singlehandedly in a way that really benefitted the Gators. He was active on the offensive glass, as always, and even was able to throw down a powerful slam. His minutes have slowly been climbing up and he had 17 tonight, an indication his role is continuing to grow.
I’m not saying Jalen Hudson is “back” yet but I do think today was the closest thing we’ve seen to last year’s performance as he had 14 points on 5-11 shooting (4-9 from three) and looked like his confidence offensively was coming back. He had a few plays, particularly a sloppy passing turnover in the Gators’ end, that drew a mean stare from Coach White but he allowed Hudson to stay in the game and get some rhythm. Hopefully this is something he can build on.
The Gators took care of business in a much cleaner fashion than they did against Mercer and that should be a nice step for the team as they try to climb towards their potential. It was great to see threes continue to fall for Noah Locke and it was super satisfying to see some shots fall for Hudson and hopefully some other players can catch their offensive stride too as the team looks toward a rematch with Butler.