Florida’s 2019-2020 campaign tipped off Tuesday night with a 89-71 win in an exhibition match-up against in-state Lynn University, subsequently giving coach Mike White and the Florida faithful their first glimpse of the new-look Gators. Here’s several takeaways from the contest.
The Gators started the trio of sophomores, in addition to graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear and Gainesville native Tre Mann, although fellow freshman Scottie Lewis entered soon after. Point guard Andrew Nembhard led all Gators with 17 points, while Blackshear posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first UF game.
White said he based the starting line-up off of player performance throughout preseason camp.
“Just production in practice, it was really simple,” White said. “Somebody asked me, ‘you know, why doesn’t so-and-so not start’. Well, because you can only play five guys.”
All told, all six freshmen saw the floor Tuesday, including Omar Payne and Jason Jitoboh, UF’s freshmen in the frontcourt.
“Jason and Omar, I think continue to improve, probably Omar especially. Really in the last week, he had two really good practices coming into today,” White said. “Jason’s had a heck of a month. It took him awhile to make that big jump, with his weight and his conditioning, and since then he’s kind of taken off with his confidence level.”
Lynn cut UF’s lead to 16-12, after which the Gators responded with a 12-0 run to keep the lead sizable heading into halftime. At times, the Gators ran a line-up of five newcomers. White acknowledged the night was an opportunity for the Gators to experiment with various line-ups and rotations prior to opening the season Nov. 5.
“It was more so trying to hold our guys accountable defensively on the glass, especially in the first 30 minutes or so,” White said. “I thought Andrew (Nembhard) and (Blackshear) had played enough minutes, so playing a bunch of new guys late was definitely by design.”
Blackshear’s 3-pointer beat the first-half buzzer, and the Gators didn’t slow down on the offensive end after building a 20-point lead. Florida came out on a 11-0 run to start the second half, although Lynn would outscore UF, 42-40, in the second half, leading White to deem Florida’s effort on the defensive end, particularly that of the freshmen, as “not very good”.
“Offense was definitely better than our defense,” White admitted. “Freshmen hadn’t seen anything yet. It’s a long season.”
Considered one of the top defensive freshmen in the country, Scottie Lewis seemed somber and discontent after UF’s defense didn’t meet internal expectations.
“We didn’t play to our principles defensively, that’s all it was,” Lewis said. “Me being one of the best defenders, I should have taken more pride and I let my team down in not taking more pride in that aspect in locking (Jordan Allen) down, he had a phenomenal game and that’s on me.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: clad in No. 5, Allen shot the lights out in Gainesville on Tuesday. Yet it wasn’t departed senior KeVaughn Allen, but rather Lynn redshirt junior Jordan Allen. The Dover, Delaware, native connected on 9-of-17 three-point attempts en route to a 35-point performance.
“They seemed to get more open looks, I joked on the TV after the game that Jordan Allen after he had 32, had his best look of the half and he just happened to miss it. He had 35, he could have had 38,” White said. “Our guys need to understand, not only the importance of communication is a two-way street, it’s talking and it’s listening. A lot of times you got two guys out there screaming something at each other, and neither is listening to what the other guys is saying. It’s a process.”
The Gators started 9-for-10 from the free throw line, however, things quickly deteriorated from there. UF would finish a paltry 6-for-16 from the charity stripe as freshmen Ques Glover and Jason Jitoboh combined to go 1-for-8 from the line in the second half.