Gators Open Season With 74-59 Win Over North Florida

The new-look Gators had a successful start to their season on Tuesday night at home winning 74-59 over the North Florida Ospreys. Fans who anxiously awaited their chance to get a look at graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. were rewarded with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in what was an extremely successful Florida debut. Ultimately it was Florida’s defense and ability to create turnovers that allowed them to run away with this one as they held the Ospreys to 37% while also forcing 18 turnovers. Ivan Gandia-Rosa, playing for the third time in his career in Gainesville was a standout performer for the Ospreys as he ended with 6 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Blackshear Jr.’s Debut

Florida fans got everything they hoped for from their new starting center as he showed just how dominant he could be. From tough offensive rebound put backs to step back jump shots he was a threat from both the inside and outside and the Ospreys simply didn’t have the size to match up with him. In this game the Gators used him mostly on the low block as opposed to their exhibition with Lynn University where he primarily played on the perimeter and this allowed him to use his size, shield the ball, and use a simple but effective baby hook to get bucket after bucket. Not only did he have 20 points but he did it on an extremely efficient 8-11 shooting mark from the field. This was as encouraging a debut as Blackshear could have and it looks like he’s primed for a major season.

Battle On The Glass

Rebounding was a big story for this team last year as they struggled on the defensive glass and that was an issue for them again Tuesday night as they gave up 14 offensive rebounds to an undersized North Florida team. Missed block outs led to easy second chance opportunities and it will have to be something the Gators tighten up moving forward. Though the Gators didn’t always have great moments on the defensive glass they were hustling on the other end and that allowed them to grab 22 offensive rebounds of their own. Kerry Blackshear Jr., Omar Payne, Keyontae Johnson, and Dontay Bassett were all causing fits with their dedication to pounding the offensive glass and they used their size advantage to win a lot of the 50-50 balls. If the Gators can get that same effort on the defensive glass they’ll be in much better shape.

Gun-Shy

After letting copious amounts of long balls fly last season the Gators were a little shy on the trigger against North Florida only putting up 15 3-point attempts and it’s worth noting that three of them were right at the end of the game in garbage time. They were only able to convert 3 of their 15 attempts making for a 20% number they won’t be particularly happy about. Considering their opponent I think it was wise for them to make an effort of getting the ball down low and I don’t think this low number of 3-point attempts is particularly concerning but it will be something to watch for.

Opening Night Rustiness

The Gators had their fair share of layups, tip ins, and short jumpers missed tonight and had they converted on those bunnies the score could look very different. At those moments when uncontested layups from Andrew Nembhard and then Ques Glover spilled out you definitely knew it was night one of the season and the Gators still seemed to be finding their way. Hopefully they’ll be able to shake off all the rust and be totally ready to go for Sunday’s game against Florida State.

Final Thoughts

While it was a bit of a sloppy performance from the Gators they showed what they can do on the defensive end and had moments of offensive rhythm when they were able to keep the ball in the hands of their playmakers like Kerry Blackshear Jr., Andrew Nembhard, and Tre Mann. Shot selection was a bit shaky and the lack of intensity on the defensive glass isn’t exactly what you’d like to see given the fact that they struggled in that area last year and they had a major size advantage tonight but the real test will be their next game against Florida State.

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.