Coming off Sunday’s 65-51 loss to a physical Florida State team, the Florida men’s basketball team found itself trying to deal with a Towson team that fit a similar profile.
Fortunately for the young 15th-ranked Gators, they were able to apply the previously learned lesson delivered by the Seminoles against the Tigers.
Kerry Blackshear’s go-ahead inside layup with 1:05 left in the second half proved the difference for Florida in a 66-60 win over Towson on Thursday night at Exactech Arena.
“I thought we played with some toughness,” Gators coach Mike White said. “Towson is really good … they execute well.
“They played well enough to come in here and steal one. (We) didn’t fold down the stretch. We made some wing plays down the stretch, especially defensively and did just enough.”
Freshman swingman Scottie Lewis gave the Gators (2-1) a huge boost offensively in scoring 13 of his game-high 15 points in the second half.
Lewis pulled double duty in the final 20 minutes in also helping hold Tigers guard Brian Fobbs to just two points after Fobbs led all scorers with 10 in the first half.
“We have great scorers,” Lewis said. “Like coach White said, our ceiling for our offense is tremendous. Shots are going to fall as the seasons go on. I think we’re one of the better offensive teams in college basketball right now.
“Once we’re hitting shots … our offense is gonna flow.”
Blackshear notched his third double-double in as many games in a Gators uniform with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Gators struggled to pull away for most of the night and were locked in a 60-60 tie with 2:15 remaining after the 17-point underdog Tigers’ Juwan Gray canned a 3.
But Blackshear’s bucket off an Andrew Nembhard entry pass gave UF a two-point lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Nembhard, who finished with 11 points and nine assists, rebounded a Towson (2-2) miss and hit two free throws to put UF up 64-60 and Lewis made two free throws to settle the outcome.
After shooting 2-for-12 in the first half from beyond the arc, the Gators fared better in the second half by hitting 5-of-10 from 3. Still, Florida will be looking to shoot better than the 31.8 percent it nailed for the game.
The Gators were outrebounded, outshot and at times even out-hustled during the first half, but salvaged a 30-30 halftime score after a putback dunk by freshman forward Omar Payne off a Blackshear miss and a nifty drive to the basket by Nembhard after splitting a defensive switch accounted for the last four points of the half.
UF led early, nudging ahead 13-10 but Towson went on a 9-0 spurt that forced White to call a timeout and get the young Gators settled.
“We just gotta lock in more and focus on what we’re trying to do,” Nembhard said. “It’s mostly defense at that point and we’ve just got to lock into our personnel.”
Keyontae Johnson and Blackshear each had eight points in the first half while Blackshear had seven of the Gators’ 15 team rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
The Gators don’t have much time to recover, as they play at UConn at 3 p.m. Sunday.
|No. 15 FLORIDA 66, TOWSON 60|
Thompson 2-2 0-0 4, Tunstall 2-3 0-0 5, Betrand 5-9 2-2 14, Fobbs 4-11 4-5 12, Dottin 4-6 0-0 10, Gray 3-6 0-0 7, Sanders 1-4 5-7 7, Gibson 0-7 1-2 1. Totals 21-48 12-16 60.
Blackshear 4-14 5-6 13, Johnson 3-8 0-0 8, Nembhard 3-7 4-4 11, Lewis 5-8 3-5 15, Mann 2-7 1-4 6, Payne 4-4 0-1 8, Jitoboh 1-1 0-0 2, Glover 0-1 0-0 0, Locke 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 23-55 13-20 66.
Halftime_30-30. 3-Point Goals_Towson 6-19 (Dottin 2-3, Betrand 2-4, Gray 1-2, Tunstall 1-2, Gibson 0-2, Fobbs 0-6), Florida 7-22 (Johnson 2-4, Lewis 2-4, Nembhard 1-2, Locke 1-2, Mann 1-5, Glover 0-1, Blackshear 0-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Towson 29 (Sanders 6), Florida 27 (Blackshear 13). Assists_Towson 10 (Dottin 4), Florida 13 (Nembhard 9). Total Fouls_Towson 20, Florida 13.