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Gators Dominate the Boards in 76-54 Victory Over Mercer

Call it lock down defense, call it poor shooting, call it whatever you want, but don’t call it a loss. The Florida men’s basketball team is now 2-0 after taking down the Mercer Bears on Saturday night at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, 76-54. Florida’s utter dominance on the boards, holding a 47-32 advantage, was the key to victory, as it has been so many times in the past. The Gators grabbed 20 offensive boards, turning them into 24 second chance points. And in an ultra rare occurrence, every single Florida player scored in tonight’s game.

And, the Gators also hit free throws.  Florida went 24 for 30 from the charity stripe in one of their best performances in the last two years. It marked just the fifth time in the last two seasons that Florida shot over 80% from the free-throw line.

Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White looks on in the second half against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Mike White looks on in the second half against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Florida Gators 80-59. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

“Hopefully a season long trend, we’d take that in a heartbeat, but it feels good to see that thing go in,” Gator coach Mike White said in regard to the team’s recent free-throw shooting success. “You know, you earn your way to the foul line, and to cash in, I know it’s got to feel good for our guys.”

Justin Leon had a career high and team-leading 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the field, going 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Despite going 3 of 12 from the floor and 2 for 8 from downtown, KeVaughn Allen finished second in scoring with 13 points, adding a career-high five assists. Ria’n Holland had almost half of Mercer’s points, scoring 21 on 8 of 16 shooting from the field, hitting 5 of 10 three-pointers.

“We were able to click, and play hard, and I think we’re a hard team to score on. Doing a lot of defensive stuff every day, it’s good to see it transition into the game,” said Justin Leon.

First Half

After seven minutes of play, both teams had only scored a combined 12 points, with the game tied up at 6-6. Mercer and Florida were shooting a combined 6 for 15.

The Gators edge on the offensive glass is what got their offense going early. Florida’s five offensive rebounds in the first nine minutes ignited a 7-0 run, giving UF an 11-6 lead with 11:08 remaining in the first half.

A nearly seven minute drought without a field goal for Mercer allowed Florida to take a 16-8 lead with 8:37 remaining in the first 20 minutes. The Bears finally ended the drought on a floater from Ria’n Holland to bring it within six with a touch over seven minutes left to play in the first half.

With just under five minutes left to play in the first frame, the Gators led the Bears, 20-12. Both teams were struggling mightily from the floor with Florida shooting a poor 6 for 20 (30%), and Mercer an even worse 5 for 14 (36%).

A 15-4 run busted the game wide open for the Gators, who took a 14-point lead with three minutes remaining in the first half. Florida took its first 20-point lead of the game on a Devin Robinson “And One” with 41.8 seconds remaining.

An 18-2 run to end the first half gave Florida a 36-14 lead at the half. The Gators outrebounded the Bears in the first half 24-12. Florida’s 13 offensive rebounds were more than all of Mercer’s boards combined.

Halftime 

Devin Robinson led all scorers at the end of the first 20 minutes with 10 points on 3 of 6 shooting, while adding five rebounds. Florida outscored Mercer in second chance points 16-0,  and forced 12 turnovers, leading to 14 points. The Bears last points of the first half came with 2:42 remaining.

Second Half

Florida started off the second half in full court press, looking to end Mercer’s day before it ever really got going. The Gators took a 45-22 lead into the first media timeout of the second half with 15:51 remaining in the game.

With 12:07 remaining, one of Mercer’s best scorers, Demetre Rivers, fouled out after scoring only two points. He was second in scoring in the Bears’ opener, putting up 19 points vs. Brewton-Parker College.

The Bears started to make a comeback, embarking on a 12-4 run to bring Florida’s lead down to 15 with 10:43 remaining in the game. Mercer’s run was short lived as the Gators went back up by 20 just two short minutes later.

A 13-2 run, capped off by a Devin Robinson alley-oop gave the Gators their largest lead of the game at 25, with 6:38 remaining in the game.

About Jake Winderman

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