Seemingly everything was going right for the Gators on Saturday as a 3-point barrage coupled with a dominating performance on the glass gave them a commanding 102-63 win over Long Beach State. Finishing with 6 players in double figures the Gators were able to find open shots all game long as they picked apart both man and zone defenses rolled out by a Long Beach State team long known as the 49ers before making a switch to “The Beach” this season. This wasn’t a major resume win or anything that will really change the national perception of the Gators but it should be an encouraging outcome that helps the team gain some confidence as they now have a week to prepare for their SEC opener against Alabama.
Knocking down open shots has been an issue so far for the Gators but against Long Beach State they were able to hit their jumpers with ease going 12-30 (40%) from three, a performance that showcased just what this team is capable of from behind the arc. Noah Locke (4-9) Lead the way while Kerry Blackshear Jr. (3-5), Keyontae Johnson (2-4), Andrew Nembhard (1-2), Ques Glover (1-4), and Tre Mann (1-6) all had a taste from the land beyond.
Florida’s offensive onslaught was led by Andrew Nembhard who continually found his teammates easy looks as he finished with 13 assists, a career high. Many of his dimes were to big men who finished the play with wide-open dunks generated by his vision and playmaking and the whole game was a demonstration of his unmatched distribution ability on the court. Good basketball teams need good point guards who can move the ball and Nembhard showed just what he is capable of.
Leading The Way
Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Keyontae Johnson shared the lead in scoring for the Gators with 21 points apiece. Most of Blackshear’s damage was done in the first half before he took it easy in the second (finishing with only 24 minutes). First, he showcased his finishing ability inside with some physical layups resulting in 3-point plays and then he stepped out to the perimeter where he knocked down some threes.
Johnson took over in the second where he finished some powerful dunks from high above the rim and knocked down a couple threes himself. No one on The Beach could match his strength and athleticism and it made for a big night.
With Scottie Lewis out of the lineup due to a concussion suffered in practice the Gators played bigger lineups with two centers on the floor for multiple stretches and it resulted in 15 offensive rebounds, many of which were immediately put back for easy layups. They definitely had the size advantage over Long Beach State but it was still good to see them controlling the boards since that hasn’t always been the case this year.
Even with Omar Payne, Dontay Bassett, and Jason Jitoboh getting more minutes than normal the Gators’ leading rebounder was surprisingly Noah Locke with 10. Florida is going to need their guards to help out with rebounding and it looks like Locke was focused on getting on the glass in this one.
After a career plagued with injuries it was great to see Gorjok Gak get into the game for 6 minutes of action. He’s had a crazy journey that has been slowed down on multiple occasions with injuries so seeing him get on the floor was an excellent sight. No one knows how much of a role he’ll have going forward this season but getting him out on the floor for 6 minutes against The Beach was a great starting point.
This was obviously a game the Gators were expected to take easily but it was still encouraging to see them look smooth in the way they went about their business. The ball was moving well and shooters were letting it fly with confidence. Bench players got into the game and played well, and seeing shots fall, even in a game like this, should help the confidence of the players.
One thing that was interesting about this game is that they were noticeably trying to push the ball and get out into transition more often, something that worked well for them in this game. Pushing the ball got them some high percentage looks at the rim and also created some confusion that led to open threes. It’s clear the team is still trying to accelerate their pace of play and this game was good practice for that.
Now the real test begins and that’s an SEC opener with Alabama in a week.