Florida’s offense was clicking on Tuesday night as they went into Columbia and had a convincing 81-68 road win against the home South Carolina Gamecocks. With their star big man Kerry Blackshear on the bench for most of the game due to foul trouble point guard Andrew Nembhard stepped up with a career game going for 21 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals. It was midway through the first half when the Gators built a lead and even through South Carolina took some big swings to get back into it Florida remained calm, focused, and confident and ultimately ran away with the W. Florida has another road test on Saturday against Missouri.
Nembhard’s Career Night
What made Andrew Nembhard’s game so impressive was that he was getting his own offense as well as setting his teammates up for easy buckets. Individually he was roasting South Carolina’s defense with pull-up jumpers off the dribble, something he struggled with as a freshman but has become a strength of his game. Every time a Gamecock cheated under a screen he’d made them pay with a with a jumper whether it was from three or the midrange and it stacked up to a 21-point night. As a distributor he was finding his teammates for dunks, layups, or jumpers whenever help rotated over to try to keep him away from the rim and it resulted in a 10 assists, a number that easily could have been higher if Blackshear converted a few more of his attempts around the rim. Nembhard is playing confident basketball and it’s a big reason the Gators won convincingly on Tuesday.
Scottie Lewis Continues To Blossom
Finishing with 15 points and 9 rebounds Scottie Lewis took another step forward and was a valuable piece, especially on the glass. His length and leaping ability allowed him to get some tough boards in traffic and once he got the ball he was able to turn up the court and get the Gators going with some tempo. What was most encouraging was a couple of jump shots he hit, something he’ll need to do to not only help the Gators but reach his ultimate goal of being an NBA lottery pick. If he continues to battle on the boards and knock down some jumpers he’ll be extremely valuable.
Controlling The Glass
Rebounding hasn’t always been a strength for the Gators this year and they faced quite a challenge going up against a physical South Carolina team. Fortunately, they really came to compete whenever a shot went up and ultimately they went +11 on the glass, a number that will win you a lot of basketball games. Scottie Lewis was big on the glass as was mentioned before but perhaps the biggest effort came from Omar Payne who pulled in 9 rebounds in only 12 minutes. He was thrown into service when Kerry Blackshear was sent to the bench with foul trouble and Payne came into the game and dominated in the rebound category with 4 of his rebounds coming on the offensive side. His length and leaping ability was extremely evident and he was a valuable role player for the Gators when they really needed him.
Once again Keyontae Johnson had a great game with 19 points and 8 rebounds and once again he did it in extremely efficient fashion going 8-13 from the field. He seems to only take good, open shots and it seems to always give him efficiency shooting nights and this was another one of them. The three-point shot betrayed him as he went 0-3 but going 8-10 from inside the arc is fantastic and he had some big buckets for the Gators.
Florida was expected to beat South Carolina but they got the win in convincing fashion, controlling the boards and converting offensively against a tough-minded defensive team. They looked quite crisp against a team that’s known for making their opponents uncomfortable and that effort from Florida shouldn’t go underappreciated. It looks like the team is making steps offensively, especially when it comes to playing in transition, and in turn they are playing more confidently. This was as good as they have played this season and it will hopefully give the team some momentum going forward.