Gators roll past Tampa in final preseason test

Florida guard KeVaughn Allen drives to the basket over Tampa center Nikola Marijan (34) during the second half of Sunday's exhibition basketball game in the O'Connell Center. (AP Photo/Ron Irby)

Florida basketball coach Mike White is still looking for defensive improvement before the Gators open the season Nov. 13 against Gardner-Webb.

But Florida once again showed more than enough offensive firepower in a 94-57 win over Division II Tampa in its final exhibition tuneup Sunday at the O’Connell Center.

Florida went on a 17-0 first-half run to build a 51-22 halftime lead. But White was disappointed in some defensive breakdowns that allowed the Spartans to score 35 points in the second half. Tampa forward and former Ocala Vanguard standout Duke Shelton, perhaps motivated by playing close to home, led all scorers with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

“I told him we may have got him drafted,” White said. “He just used us on the interior, 22 and 11, six offensive rebounds. Our physicality in the interior isn’t what it needs to be.”

White also said UF’s defensive communication was not as good as it has been in practice.

“You see glimpses of high level defense and you see glimpses of head scratching,” White said.

The positives on defense included forcing 18 turnovers and blocking 12 shots. Junior center Kevarrius Hayes had four blocks, while freshman forward Chase Johnson and sophomore center Gorjok Gak had three blocks apiece.

“The identity of our team is expanding,” Hayes said. “Trying to find what works for us and how well we work together. As we get to learn that, we’ll be one of the tougher teams.”

Offensively, the Gators once again displayed balance and a penchant for hitting long-range shots. Junior guard Jalen Hudson led four UF scorers in double figures with 18 points, with redshirt sophomore Keith Stone adding 12 points and six rebounds. Junior guard KeVaughn Allen had 11 points and four assists starting at point guard for injured Chris Chiozza, who is out for at least another week with a shoulder sprain. Freshman point guard Mike Okauru also took advantage of the increased playing time with Chiozza out, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

“I was proud of both of those guys,” White said. “It’s exhibition of course, but Mike has come a long way in the first month of practice, he’s settling in a little bit. Of course, (he has) much more room for improvement. KeVaughn played one of his better games. I loved his approach, his mentality. I thought he played as hard as I’ve ever seen him play. Defensively, he was all over the place.”

Florida went 12 of 25 (44 percent) from 3-point range, with five different players making 3-pointers. The Gators also made 12 3-pointers in Thursday’s exhibition win over Jacksonville. All 10 of UF’s players who appeared in the game scored at least six points.

“We’ve got great potential, a lot of shooters, a lot of guys who can play,” Hudson said. “But we really want to hang our hat on defense and how hard we play. So that’s the main focus. But I feel like we have a lot of guys who can go score it.”



  1. Today was my 1st time seeing Jalen Hudson in the Orange & Blue (ESPN streaming), and I am impressed. This 2017-’18 Gator Basketball team looks quite formidable. Hopefully, Cheese and big John get healthy (stay healthy) and help this Gator squad compete for the S.E.C. reg. season championship.
    Today was another solid win! Go Gators!

  2. Can’t wait for John and that 300 lb(?) guy return from surgery. They should take up some more space in the paint and make rebounding much easier. Teams will need to pack it in even more and our perimeter players will have an easier time getting shots off. Pick your poison.