Gators Handle Mercer 71-63 In Gainesville

In a game that wasn’t pretty Florida gave the Mercer Bears every opportunity to stay in the game but the Gators ultimately came away with a 71-63 win lead by 18 points from Noah Locke whose 5-11 3-point shooting ignited the Rowdy Reptiles and captivated fans. Ross Cummings hit some big shots for the Bears in finishing with 18 points while Marcus Cohen’s ability to drive the basketball gave the Gators’ defense fits all night long. Andrew Nembhard, KeVaughn Allen, and Noah Locke were all able to hit enough free throws late in the second half to seal the game but a few turnovers and easy baskets gave up in the final minutes allowed a game that Florida lead by double digits to stay close. Let’s hope they learned some lessons in late game execution as they now look towards Florida Gulf Coast.

Long Ball

Noah Locke (5-11), KeVaughn Allen (3-6), Andrew Nembard (2-5), and Keith Stone (2-4) were all effective from behind the arc on Tuesday and that helped out an offense that was still looking stagnant against a constantly shifting Mercer defense. The Bears threw every defense in the book against the Gators including man, 3-2 zone, 2-3 zone, and 1-3-1 zone and it definitely confused the Gators at times, particularly Nembhard who had 4 uncharacteristic turnovers. It should be great practice for some SEC games where the Gators are certain to see all kinds of defensive looks.

Injury Report

Dontay Bassett was said to be available but was also held out in a game where he didn’t have any great matchups. Though it was said Chase Johnson was going to be activated a few days ago Coach White said today he was feeling ill and sat out. The concussion bug Johnson may have had jumped to Deaundrae Ballard who had a freak injury in practice and is being held out a few days for a precaution and I think the team could have used him tonight. Gorjok Gak is, well…your guess is as good as mine.

Jalen Hudson Watch

After coming off the bench the last few games Jalen Hudson earned himself a starting spot after having a great week of practice. Unfortunately, that great week of practice didn’t translate to this game as he was 1-7 from the floor. He did chip in 2 assists and 2 rebounds while drawing a charge so it could be something to build on but his jump shot still isn’t there and multiple of his three point shots weren’t even close. I’m still wishing him the best moving forward.

Doing The Dirty Work

Kevarrius Hayes brought his lunch pail to the O’Dome and went to work in the trenches with 11 rebounds and 5 blocks, not to mention 8 points on 4-5 shooting. Yes, he fumbled away a few other passes that could have been layups but don’t let that take away from the work he did on the glass and the blocks that erased nearly certain Mercer points. Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke gave up some dribble penetration to the talented backcourt of Mercer and Hayes was always there to mop it up and I think he played a strong game on his own end despite his offensive problems.

Takeaways

This game finished a lot closer than it should have and I wasn’t stoked on the late game execution as the Gators tried to seal the game. Particularly upsetting was a sideline inbounds that was easily intercepted for a layup on the Gators’ end. Luckily they were able to escape with relative ease but this needs to be a learning situation. The Gators lost too many close games last year and they can’t allow any leads to be squandered.

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Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.