Florida advances to title game at Charleston Classic with win over Miami

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Florida's Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Gators beat state rival Miami 78-58 Friday to advance to the Charleston Classic championship. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill/File]

By PETE IACOBELLI| AP Sports Writer

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Florida coach Mike White’s not sure where his Gators will end up this season. He just finally likes the direction they’re headed.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 20 points and 11 rebounds as Florida beat state rival Miami 78-58 Friday to advance to the Charleston Classic championship.

The Gators (4-2) were sixth in the preseason Top 25, but fell out after losses to Florida State and UConn in their first four games. White does not believe winning the first two games in Charleston mean the struggles are over, only that his team is learning and improving every time out.

“I’m not one of these ‘I told you so’ guys,” White said. “We’re still figuring out each other. I do think we’re going to be a lot better than we are now in couple of months. Does that mean we’re ranked 37th? 14th? I don’t get caught up in that.”

White did enjoy what he thought was Florida’s best game of the year. Much of that was Blackshear, the Virginia Tech grad transfer who now has a chance to win a second straight Charleston title after helping the Hokies hoist the trophy last November.

He also bounced back from an awful first game Thursday where he picked up two quick fouls and sat for most of the half before getting ejected for a flagrant foul early in the second half.

Blackshear said the foul was accidental, but he’s got to be smarter than that going forward if he wants to be a leader for Florida. He’s also happy with giving his latest teammates a try for a title.

“It’s definitely good feeling,” Blackshear said. “Being with a team that I like to be around helps me with the adjustment.”

Blackshear scored Florida’s first eight points, and his 3-pointer later in the period closed the Gators’ 20-2 run.

Still, Miami (4-2) rallied to tie things at 45-all in the second half on Chris Lykes’ high-arcing 3-pointer. Noah Locke, though, followed with a 3-pointer to start a 15-4 run that put Florida ahead to stay.

The Gators will take on No. 18 Xavier (6-0) at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) Sunday night for the tournament crown. Xavier best UConn in double OT Friday night.

Miami, whose perfect 8-0 record at Charleston ended, will vie against the Xavier-UConn loser for third place Sunday.

This game had a higher intensity given the schools’ long athletic history and position as two of the biggest, most successful programs in the Sunshine State. The teams have met 69 times, but only seven of those games have come since 1990. Their last meeting was also an early-season tournament, the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Florida, where the Gators topped the Hurricanes 65-56.

Whenever one side threatened to gain control, the other fought back in a first half that seemed more like a game near the end of a season instead of the beginning. At one point, Blackshear looked behind as he went back on defense and saw four bodies on the floor after fighting for a rebound.

Lykes had 16 points to lead Miami.

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The Hurricanes had few answers for Florida’s inside game and were outrebounded 34-25. And when Miami’s shots were not falling in the second half (the Hurricanes made just 3 of 17 attempts), the Gators took advantage. It was Miami’s largest loss to the Gators since falling 101-81 in 1988.

Florida: The Gators started the season No. 6 in the rankings and fell out after falling to Florida State and UConn in its first four games. Florida, though, has made strides in looking like the Top 10 team it was projected to be this season.

DEFENSIVE WORK AHEAD

Miami coach Jim Larranaga said his team must improve its defense if it hopes to have the year it wants this season. He said there were too many instances of mistakes made by younger players still learning, especially as Florida took control the final 15 minutes.

ONE GAK

The game featured the Gak brothers, one on each side. Gorjok Gak is a 6-foot-11 junior for the Gators while Deng Gak is a 6-10 sophomore with Miami. But only Deng Gak saw action as Gorjok continues dealing with a shoulder injury. Deng finished with four points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.

UP NEXT

Miami will face UConn in the third-place game here Sunday night.

Florida plays for the championship against No. 18 Xavier to close the tournament Sunday night at 8:30 on ESPN.

FLORIDA 78, MIAMI 58
MIAMI (4-2)

Waardenburg 2-4 0-0 5, Miller 2-4 0-4 4, Vasiljevic 3-9 0-0 8, Lykes 7-12 0-0 16, McGusty 3-12 2-2 10, D.Gak 2-2 0-2 4, Walker 2-5 0-0 4, Beverly 0-3 2-2 2, Herenton 0-0 0-0 0, Wong 2-4 1-1 5. Totals 23-55 5-11 58.

FLORIDA (4-2)

Johnson 5-8 1-1 12, Blackshear 6-12 5-6 20, Nembhard 3-8 0-1 8, Lewis 5-10 2-2 13, Locke 2-4 0-0 6, Payne 3-6 0-1 6, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, Jitoboh 1-2 0-2 2, Glover 5-6 0-0 11. Totals 30-56 8-13 78.

Halftime_Florida 38-33. 3-Point Goals_Miami 7-19 (McGusty 2-3, Lykes 2-4, Vasiljevic 2-5, Waardenburg 1-2, Walker 0-1, Beverly 0-2, Wong 0-2), Florida 10-19 (Blackshear 3-4, Locke 2-4, Nembhard 2-5, Johnson 1-2, Lewis 1-2, Glover 1-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Miami 24 (Waardenburg, McGusty 5), Florida 37 (Blackshear 11). Assists_Miami 10 (Miller, Lykes, McGusty 2), Florida 18 (Nembhard 9). Total Fouls_Miami 13, Florida 14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. Team chemistry seems to be improving. Better shot selection and more shots falling. They’re still trying to find their identity, but it’s clear they’re loaded with talent. Lewis is going to develop into an All Star . Hope today’s performance will deflate the White critics and especially the troll.

    • The important aspect is as you stated the team chemistry is improving, especially on the offensive end of the floor. I do worry about when Blackshear is not on the floor in a close game. That short stretch in the first half was not good. IMPROVEMENT, that is the key to the weekend. I am hoping we at least do not regress on Sunday. But nice game from everyone on the floor and I’ll say, well coached. Go Gators!

  2. According to the statistics above, Locke hit two 3’s out of four attempts and didn’t take another shot? If I read that right, why is he not shooting more? Isn’t he the best pure shooter on the team….so, is he in the coach’s doghouse and they aren’t running plays for him?

    Just asking!!

    • Probably, sr, but he had been in a terrible slump. He was probably shooting about 25% from 3-point range. They shot over 50% as a team today, so there were plenty of options. I don’t think White runs a lot of set plays. I think it’s more of an effort to drive and kick the ball or make an entry pass and kick to the open shooters, whoever they may be. He just has to take the good shots when they come and resist the temptation to launch when the shot’s not really there.

    • Nembhard did have 9 assists, but I agree that Glover does push the ball upcourt better. Nembhard can also drive and get easy layups or short jumpers in the lane, but, as you’ve mentioned, he misses too many. If he can learn to finish, he’ll increase his scoring significantly.

  3. Good job Gators!
    I, personally, want a rematch with U Conn. This team’s identity is beginning to take shape. KJ is “the assassin” and is often unstoppable when he drives to the rim. Blackshear’s an answered prayer for a true “big man.” I hope this team continues to gel and win! Go Gators!

  4. Team is improving. It’s a process. Better movement on offense. When Payne was put in and Blackshear and him played together at start of 1st half we went on a huge run. Thought we actually played better at times with Glover (he is a nice surprise) at point but we need him and Nembhard. No big wing players (Robinson – Barry – Leon – etc) so we are going to need a bigger inside game this year!

    • Wow, this team has some serious potential. That was fun to watch, especially against the Canes. I was thinking the same thing about Payne and Glover, both pleasant surprises. They will provide the kind of depth that the Gators are going to need to have a great season. Makes the wait for football season so much less painful. Sorry, had to say it.

  5. I had to laugh at those calling for White’s head after the 2-2 start. They don’t know College basketball is a 30+ games season. Nearly 40 if you make the final four. Some of the nay-sayers don’t know spit about basketball. Just a few. Most of the posters hear understand the team concept and make good points. I am starting to agree with the post about Nembhard. He’s got to show me more.