Balanced UF overwhelms UNF

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Florida guard Chris Chiozza drives to the basket against the University of North Florida in the O'Connell Center. The Gators won 108-68 over the Ospreys on Thursday. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

UNF coach Matthew Driscoll declared Florida as a Final Four caliber team shortly after the No. 8 Gators dismantled the Ospreys 108-68 before 9,151 at the O’Connell Center.

To Florida coach Mike White, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done.

“I appreciate his friendship and his faith in what we’re doing over here,” White said Thursday. “But my goodness, we’ve got to guard at a much higher level or rebound at a much higher level, guard without fouling.”

Offensively, though, it’s clear the Gators are a high-powered team that’s tough to guard. Junior guard KeVaughn Allen led six UF scorers in double figures with 18 points. Redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone had a bounce-back game with 14 points, while graduate transfer Egor Koulechov followed up his 34-point debut by filling up the stat sheet with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Guards Deaundrae Ballard and Jalen Hudson each scored 12 points off the bench, while sophomore center Gorjok Gak, making his first career start, had a career-high 12 points, two assists and three steals.

“They can attack you scoring-wise from all five positions,” Driscoll said.

Florida (2-0), which knocked off Gardner-Webb 116-74 in the season opener Monday night, posted back-to-back 100-point games for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Florida beat Northeastern 101-84 on Dec. 22, 2003, then followed it up with a 109-63 win over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 27.

After dishing 26 assists against Gardner-Webb, the Gators had 23 more assists against UNF (0-4) to just nine turnovers. The ball movement led to high-percentage baskets throughout the game, as Florida shot 56 percent from the field and 44 percent (11-25) from 3-point range. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza made his first start of the season and toyed with a triple-double with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.

“We have really high skill level throughout our roster,” White said. “We have a high level of unselfishness right now. Knock on wood, we can maintain that level of unselfishness.”

Florida put the game away with an early 19-3 lead fueled by a four-point play from Koulechov and 3-pointers from Allen and Hudson. Stone ended the run with a dunk in transition, putting the Gators up 24-8.

Defensively, Florida locked down for a half, holding UNF to 26.9 percent from the field while scoring 10 points off turnovers to build a 45-23 halftime lead. Freshman guard Trip Day led UNF with 13 points.

“Our defensive intensity from the jump was better than the other night, was the best it’s been in my opinion,” White said. “And I think there’s a correlation of really getting out of your comfort zone on the defensive end and shots tonight not quite falling at the same clip. And that’s why we’ve got to maintain that level of defensive energy and intensity and condition ourselves to be able to execute offensively and make shots.”

In the second half, Florida continued to pull away. That allowed student-managers turned walk-ons Mark Krause and Andrew Fava to see time in the closing minutes, much to the delight of the remaining fans in attendance. Krause scored one point and Fava followed it up with four points on a pair of baskets.

“It’s cool for our team, because I think they’re proud of them,” White said. “It’s a good example, these guys, two weeks ago … they still are, they still haven’t relinquished their managerial duties. Making lunch runs for the staff … it’s big for our culture.”

FREE THROWS: White said Gak started ahead of center Kevarrius Hayes due to a “minor disciplinary issue.” Hayes had six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. … After playing trombone in UF’s pep band on Monday, former Florida forward Canyon Barry told the Gator Tipoff Club before the game he’s heading back overseas to play for a team in the Czech Republic. Barry was cut from a team in Finland earlier this fall.

19 COMMENTS

  1. This team has a ton of potential. But real games are ahead. Ballard is so……smooth. Hudson, too. Tons of depth, and that is without Egbunu and Stokes. Scary if your team is on the Florida schedule this year.

  2. This team has real talent and depth. Boy can they score and run the floor. This is the best looking Gator team I have seen in a long while. They will get even better when they get back their injured players. This team will do very, very well.

    This is what a “real” team looks and plays like. What a contrast to the football team (if you can even call it that). Looking forward to watching this team play after the misery of watching the football team implode.

  3. I can’t remember any Gator hoops team coming out of the gate with this much firepower and intensity. Even the 04’s needed a couple of games to get in sync. There’s a lot of depth in this squad and talented young guys who can contribute and learn in relief.

    This Gator team will respond well when tested due to a great mix of veterans, journeyman and freshmen.

  4. This seasons gonna be FUN! Coach White is having way more success much earlier than Donovan ever did. I remember for years his teams were teams that couldnt win the big ones, were always on the cusp until the 04’s. This coach looks way better!…We will see..we will see!

  5. After UF lost to Vandy for the 2nd straight time last year, lots of “gator fans” were bashing Foley for his hiring of White. After the tourney run and now seeing this team in action, the exact same fans are claiming White is a “real coach”, as compared to the football coaches Foley hired. I wonder how many of the keyboard experts have ever actually been responsible for hiring people? Go Gators!!

  6. Great job Gators! Nice W for UF. Tough out of conference schedule coming up. Should prep us for SEC play which I think will be improved overall as a conference. Playing TEAM ball & continuing the unselfish O is excellent. Go Gators!

  7. Lots of basketball to be played – and better competition ahead – but this team – player for player – is better than the 06 and 07 championship teams. And those teams, if you recall, lost lots of games over two years. Cheeze is way better than Green (has he improved like crazy year over year?) and our backups are way better then they were back then. And to have four consistent three point shooters – wow – when did we become Vanderbilt on steroids. Oh yea, hopefully Egbunu is back in January. These guys are easy to watch because they don’t go on long extended cold spells and turnover spells. GO GATORS!!! And by the way – this is what a rabid over the top fan base looks like when you give them a decent product.

    • Gator Steve. Appreciate your enthusiasm for this team but with all due respect, this team has a long way to go to prove that it is player-for-player better than the 06 and 07 teams. Noah, Horford and Brewer were all lottery picks and are all still enjoying long NBA careers for a reason. That team had the defensive and rebounding ability that this team lacks. Humphrey remains the NCAA Tournament’s all-time leader in 3-pointers and Green was no slouch for the perimeter. Chris Richard was the SEC’s sixth man of the year coming off the bench in 07, and Adrian Moss scored 9 points off the bench in the title game in 06. This year’s team has more firepower on the perimeter and is a little deeper. I’d say a more apt comparison to this team is the 2012 team with Beal, Boyton, Walker, Erik Murphy, Rosario, a team that could spread you out on the perimeter with shooting at all spots on the floor. That team made the Elite 8 and came within a sniff of the Final Four. See a similar ceiling for this year’s group.

      • Nice analysis but I still compare with the 04s. Gak has really improved and and will get better game to game. He and Hayes combine to be a better 6th man than Richards. Cheese is way better than Green. 3Gor, Hudson, and Allen make up for my favorite guy Humphrey. I think 3Gor and Stone do what Brewer did. I think 3Gor compares with Horford but is better shooting the 3. Stone and the freshmen seem to be better backups than backups back then. Noah’s athleticism is quite the missing intangible but remember he was not that effective offensively except for a ton of cleanup and garbage. The Gators lost 6 in 06 and 5 in 07. While this team has a long way to go – they kept getting better all last year and I expect they will again this year. I think they will be 10 deep by the end of the season and have perhaps 5 or 6 consistent shooters by then. Time and a tough schedule will prove me right or wrong. What a luxurious debate. Not like wondering if the Gators will win another game.

        • Forgot to mention Mo Speights, who came off the bench on the ’07 team. Still think you are selling Brewer and Horford way short. The 06-07 teams could beat you with shooting, physicality, defense and passing (five scorers averaging double figures both years). To compare Egor to Horford who had 18 rebounds as a freshman v. Alabama and went No. 2 overall in the NBA draft is way, way premature. Enjoy the season and see how it plays out.

  8. The first couple of games have been fun to watch. No doubt our offense is much better than last year. Chiozza is a much better PG than Hill ever was. Hopefully our defense will be close that that of last year and we can indeed be the best in the SEC and the nation. Can’t wait until Egbunu comes back for even more size in the middle. GO GATORS!