Florida routs North Florida, 98-66

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Florida guard Deaundrae Ballard dunks Tuesday against North Florida in Exactech Arena at the O'Connell Center. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

After a disappointing showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Florida came out hot against North Florida to claim a 98-66 win Tuesday night at the O’Connell Center.

Florida made 16-of-28 attempts from behind the arc, good for 57.1 percent — the highest mark by the Gators since hitting 60.7 percent from 3 against Texas A&M on Jan. 2.

For a team that shot just 37.1 percent from 3-point land during last week’s tournament in the Bahamas, Tuesday’s showing was a sight for sore eyes on the offensive end. Yet coach Mike White continued to stress Florida’s need to improve defensively.

“I hope they feel better about themselves offensively, but they shouldn’t feel good about the way they defended tonight,” White said. “We’re not shooting 50 percent against either (upcoming opponents, West Virginia or Michigan State).”

Florida took a 53-33 lead into the halftime break, and Kevarrius Hayes’ steal on the first possession of the second-half helped set the tone in the second half. Despite White’s belief the Gators struggled on defense, UF held the Ospreys to just 41.9 percent from the field in the second half, including 33.3 percent from three-point land.

The Gators had been challenged to be more assertive on the offensive glass by White, and the message was seemingly received against the Ospreys. Fifteen of Florida’s 42 rebounds came on the offensive end, and the Gators ended the night having outrebounded UNF by 17.

“A few of them we just got pretty good bounces, but overall, for the most part, we executed our rebounding responsibilities a little bit more effectively on the offensive end,” White said. “I think Keith Stone set the tone early, he and Kevarrius were both flying in there. We’ve got to be harder to block out.”

Andrew Nembhard turned in an exemplary passing performance, and it put the freshman point guard in elite company. The Ontario native became just the 8th SEC player since the 1996-97 season to register at least 11 assists without a turnover. Freshman guard Noah Locke scored a game-high 18 points and sophomore Deaundrae Ballard added 15.

“He’s really good. He was as good defensively as he was offensively,” White said of Nembhard. “And he’s unselfish. Eleven assists tonight and zero turnovers. He’s about the right things.” The Gators tied an NCAA record by having nine players hit a 3-pointer.

Florida has a week off before traveling to New York City for the first game in the Jimmy V Classic against West Virginia on Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. The Gators return to their home court Dec. 8 at 12 p.m. against Michigan State.

“We just haven’t taken advantage of some opportunities. There’s so many opportunities down the road, I’m not even thinking about (previous losses) and stuff. It’s not an anxiety or fear,” White said. “It’s more, I’m in a place still right now of frustration from the way that I evaluate our guys’ accountability and discipline level. Whether we win or lose.”

FLORIDA 98, NORTH FLORIDA 66
NORTH FLORIDA (2-5)

Aminu 0-7 3-5 3, Horchler 8-10 0-0 16, Gandia-Rosa 5-8 0-0 13, Escobar 4-9 0-0 11, Sams 4-12 6-6 15, Balogun 0-0 0-0 0, Hendricksen 0-6 0-0 0, Burkhardt 2-4 0-0 6, Coffey 1-3 0-0 2, Schach 0-0 0-0 0, Lambright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 9-11 66.

FLORIDA (4-3)

Stone 3-5 2-4 10, Hayes 6-7 0-0 12, Allen 5-9 2-2 13, Locke 7-11 0-0 18, Nembhard 1-3 0-0 3, K.Johnson 5-8 0-0 11, Stokes 1-2 0-0 2, Bassett 1-5 0-0 2, Krause 0-0 0-0 0, Fava 1-1 0-0 3, Hudson 2-7 0-0 6, Okauru 1-2 0-0 3, Ballard 6-10 0-0 15. Totals 39-70 4-6 98.

Halftime_Florida 53-33. 3-Point Goals_North Florida 9-27 (Gandia-Rosa 3-5, Escobar 3-6, Burkhardt 2-4, Sams 1-5, Horchler 0-1, Aminu 0-2, Hendricksen 0-4), Florida 16-28 (Locke 4-6, Ballard 3-6, Stone 2-2, Hudson 2-4, Fava 1-1, Okauru 1-1, Nembhard 1-1, K.Johnson 1-2, Allen 1-3, Bassett 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_North Florida 23 (Horchler 10), Florida 41 (Hudson, Hayes 6). Assists_North Florida 16 (Gandia-Rosa, Hendricksen 4), Florida 26 (Nembhard 10). Total Fouls_North Florida 8, Florida 17.

18 COMMENTS

    • Think you’re right about the up tempo game. Without a good low post player, and not much length, this team is built to run. The inside game is going to have to come through fast break opportunities and drives to the basket in the half court. Good to see Ballard continue to shoot well. He shot so poorly last season, I was afraid he’d be a one dimensional slasher, but if he can sustain the good shooting, he’ll be a major weapon.

  1. One of our biggest challenges is in the front court with only one productive player available. That guy, Kevarrius Hayes, gives everything he has but is not particularly large and nit a dominator. Until and unless Gorjak Gak gets fully healthy and Isaiah Stokes acclimated this team is going to struggle against opponents with bigger, stronger front lines that can rebound and score. After so many concussions you have to wonder whether Chase Johnson has a long-term future on the court, as well. Next year might be critical in developing that needed inside presence. UF we were productive up front our backcourt scoring would tick higher.

  2. Well Florida proved last night that the players can shoot the ball when they are being defended poorly. The win last night means little other than maybe giving the team a little more confidence for future games where good defense and much more gifted players will be encountered. But Nembhard is going to be a great PG for the Gators by the end of the year and before he heads to the NBA next year. And the rust and the lack of being in shape remains steadfast on Mr. Stokes when he is on the court on a limited basis.

  3. Nothing learned from this game. Still no play from the post or #4 spot. if this team is to make the NCAA, it must rely on it’s guards and small forwards–in my opinion. And I have yet to see really good play from the No. 1 spot, regardless of who it is. Cheeze was only 6 feet, but he was a good point guard on a team with no post presence at ALL, and that team almost made the round of 16.

    • cattrick, I agree with your assessment of how the Gators will need to win games. They don’t have anyone who’s shown a consistent ability to score with post moves, so they’ll need to play an up-tempo perimeter game with paint buckets coming on fast breaks, drives, and garbage buckets. I do think you’re being a little hard on the point guard play, though, since Nembhard’s dished out 42 assists against 5 turnovers with 9 steals in the last six games. That’s better than an 8 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, which isn’t just good, it’s phenomenal.

          • There’s a big drop from the PG spot when Nembhard is out. As a freshman, I would give him about 30-32 minutes a game, but if he keeps improving and is head and shoulders over the other PGs, White will have to think about playing him about 36 minutes or more. Especially if this team is to make a run at an NCAA bid. Let us see how the pre-SEC season plays out and if a quality No. 1 behind him can be found.

  4. After doing a little analysis it became obvious that Mike White is not worth $2.5 million+ salary. His team can beat up on the little guys but when it comes to any type of competition, he is unable to coach his team well enough to win. Mike White, similar to other coaches with weak teams, schedules a lot of patsies (e.g., Charleston Southern, La Salle, Stanford, North Florida – combined record of 11-18) to get to 20 victories in hopes to get a March Madness invitation. Once there, any team can beat any team on a given day. This became evident with Florida reaching the Elite 8 on a crazy shot by Chiozza. Coaching, accounts about 20% of a team’s success. It is simply the skill of the players. Getting top players = success. Just look at Duke, KY, NC, Michigan, etc… If White cannot recruit and coach better, then it’s time for him to move back to the WAC conference. He needs to recognize that there are other players on the team besides guards. Being a former guard at Ole Miss, he spends to much time trying to make them look good instead of using all five players on the team. I noticed there is a lot of incentives for White to gain extra money. Unfortunately, these are post season incentives. Coaches salary should be based on each individual game based on a win or loss and on the caliber of the team being played. Don’t see this happening as a lot of mediocre coaches, such as White, would not be paid as much. A lot of basketball left to play.