Gators receive message, then deliver one of their own

Florida freshman guard Scottie Lewis slams the ball for a dunk during Wednesday's game against LSU at Exactech Arena. The Gators beat the Tigers of LSU 81-66 to add to their SEC win total. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Andrew Nembhard was simply repeating one of the mantras of his head coach, but with one statement the sophomore guard summed up the education of Scottie Lewis.

“He’s shooting shots that are better for him,” Nembhard said, “rather than just the shots he wants to take.”

The Gator coaches preach that all the time to this young team, that the more you move the ball, the better the shots you are going to get. They grade them after watching video of each game. 

An “A” is a good shot, whether it goes in or not.

A “C” is an average shot.

And “F” is a lousy shot, a hero shot, a selfish shot.

“There were no ‘F’s’ by Scottie tonight,” Mike White said.

 Instead, he looked like the five-star recruit Gator fans were promised.

Lewis had a career-high 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He had four assists and only one turnover in helping the Gators break the press

And when he was matched up defensively on the excellent LSU guard Skylar Mays, he locked him down (Mays had three points for the game).

Lewis wasn’t the only reason Florida handled LSU so easily Wednesday night, but he was a big part of why the Gators were never threatened in the last three quarters of the game at the O’Connell Center.

To be fair, LSU was bad. The Tigers are not known for their defense, but in this game they looked as if they were playing defense in an NBA All-Star game (or better yet, the peewee game at halftime).

Florida took advantage of that indifferent defense to shoot 54.8 percent for the game and collect a valuable win.

Whether it ends up being a Quad 1 win depends on how LSU plays the rest of the season and the Tigers are leaking oil with five losses in their last seven games after a 17-2 start.

But that doesn’t take away the emotional value of the win or the way the Gators have been playing of late (six wins in their last eight).

“I think we’re getting closer to the way we want to play,” White said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t figure it out immediately, but we didn’t think we would either.”

Lewis would be at the top of the list of players who struggled mightily as the noise grew loud in the system and took plenty of fan heat earlier in the season.

“I had to learn how to listen to the coaches,” Lewis said. “If you listen to the message, it will work out for you. I had to learn to trust the coaches after coming from high school.”

He wasn’t alone. This Florida team is playing better — not great, but certainly better — because the messages are getting through more often.

One of the loudest of those messages — share the ball and eventually it will come back to you. 

And one of the loudest roars of the night came when UF did just that to get the only shot Noah Locke has made in two games.

“That,” White said, “was a thing of beauty.”

Because Florida played so well Wednesday night, we didn’t flinch when Lewis said White repeated another of his beliefs — if you play at the level you know you can play at, you can beat anybody in college basketball.

“We made that clear today and that gave us a lot of confidence,” Lewis said.

That confidence wasn’t there through so many early-season struggles for Lewis and a number of other guys on this team trying to figure things out.

And, believe me, nobody is going to wave a banner from the top of the O-Dome declaring, “THEY’VE FIGURED IT OUT.”

But Wednesday night, there was one team that went into long scoring droughts, one team that took a bunch of hero shots, one team that left its fans with hands out, shoulders shrugging and palms extended.

And it wasn’t Florida.

“They were shooting layups and we were shooting tough shots,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “Florida played great and we didn’t play well.”

That’s how you never get closer than within 10 points of the lead in the last 30 minutes of a 40 minute game. 

And that’s how the home team never made its fans sweat.

Sure, it helps when the other team misses two dunks and plays matador defense.

But you have to take advantage of nights like that. Especially when it comes to putting teams away.

And who better to throw down the daggers than Lewis on a pair of perfect passes for lob dunks to finish it off?

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at



  1. Best played game of the year. The Gators played hard and smart for nearly the entire game. Consistent execution throughout the game prevented those lulls which has haunted this team and allowed comebacks by the other team. First game I have not been in fear of the Gators losing there edge. Keep it up team. Proud fan.