(Credit: Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports)

Gators Lead Entire Game in Preseason Victory Over Florida Southern

The Florida Gators defeated the Florida Southern Mocs 95-70 on Tuesday night. Jalen Hudson led the charge with 14 points, while Deaundrae Ballard added 13. Six different Gators scored in double digits on the evening.

Jonathan Lawton paced Florida Southern with 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting.

The Gators jumped out to a 26-point lead with a few minutes left in the first half. Florida Southern was able to cut the lead to 14 halfway through the second half, but the Gators quickly shut down the Mocs comeback attempt to secure the victory.


Final Five Thoughts

1.) The Three Freshman Lived Up to the Hype

All three freshman played quality minutes and exceeded expectations in their first game as a Gator. Keyontae Johnson paced his fellow freshmen with 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Noah Locke added 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including 3-6 from beyond the arc. However, it’s evident Andrew Nembhard is going to have the biggest impact this season.

While Nembhard didn’t blow up the stat sheet, his presence created countless offensive and defensive opportunities. In his first sequence as a Gator, he showed why he was a highly-touted five-star recruit coming out of high school.

Kevarrius Hayes set a pick at the top of the key. Nembhard used the screen and lobbed it to a rolling Hayes, who bobbled the ball and couldn’t capitalize on an easy opportunity. The following play, Nembhard attacked the paint and finished at the rim. After a defensive rebound, Nembhard received the outlet and found Jalen Hudson for a wide open three, who missed it. This sequence alone shows that Nembhard has an innate ability to create easy opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Jalen Hudson praised Nembhard and his growing connection with Kevarrius Hayes.

Johnson’s versatility will allow him to see solid minutes in Mike White’s rotation. His athleticism, defense and rebounding translate well to the college game, and his relentless effort was evident in his first game at the O’Dome.

Noah Locke showcased why he came into Florida as one of the top shooters in the country. His elite off-the-ball movement gives him ample opportunities beyond the arc, and his smooth stroke is arguably the best on the team.

Hudson raved about his ability to shoot the ball.

2.) Rebounding Will be a Major Strength All Season

With six players over 6’8″, it’s no surprise that the Gators dominated the rebounding battle 48-34. The Gators added 13-second chance points on 14 offensive rebounds. Every rotation player on the roster is over 6’3″ and there are multiple guards who rebound extremely well for their size. This bodes well for rebounding and defensive versatility. They seemed to send at least four players to the defensive glass on each opposing shot attempt, so the Gators shouldn’t struggle to rebound the ball like they did last year.

3.) KeVaughn Allen and Keith Stone Need to be More Aggressive

While this was only an exhibition game, both players lacked the aggression that made them so special in the past.

After averaging 14.0 points per game as a sophomore, Allen was supposed to become one of college basketball’s elite scorers. However, his scoring declined with the additions of Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov. With Koulechov and Chris Chiozza out of the picture, Allen is supposed to spearhead the offense with Hudson.

Against Florida Southern, Allen produced ten points on only seven shot attempts. Allen will likely get more opportunities when the season starts and the rotation gets shorter, but he should always be one of the lead shot-takers every single night.

Keith Stone decided to take the night off scoring the basketball. He didn’t attempt a shot until midway through the second half and only scored four points on two attempts. He did add ten rebounds, but the Gators can’t afford to have one of their best offensive players take a night off when the SEC schedule rolls around.

4.) Three-Point Shooting Will Continue to Make or Break Gators

For the past couple of years, the Gators have lived and died by the three. When they’ve knocked down their threes, they have proved they can compete with anyone in the country. The Gators converted 14 of 27 (51.9%) three-point attempts, including 3 apiece from Jalen Hudson and Noah Locke. With deadly shooters in Allen, Hudson, Locke and Stone, the Gators will once again live and die by the three.


5.) Transition Buckets are Easy Buckets

In the Mike White era, the Gators have thrived when they push the ball in transition. Mike White loves to play with pace and not give the defense time to settle. This was not the case against Florida Southern. The Gators only had two transition points on the evening. Maybe White wanted to focus on tuning the half-court offense, but they need to find a way to produce easy transition buckets against elite competition.

What’s Next?

The Gators open the regular season next Tuesday night against the 17th-ranked Florida State Seminoles at 9 p.m. in Tallahassee.

About Cobi Silverstein

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