Florida forward Keyontae Johnson guards Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. Kentucky defeated Florida 65-54. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

Florida defeats St. Joseph’s 70-62

The Florida Gators basketball team defeated the St. Joseph’s Hawks 70-62 on Thursday afternoon at TD Arena in Charleston, South Carolina.

Florida’s game against the Hawks was its first game in the Charleston Classic. The tournament runs from Nov. 21-24, and features Florida (3-2), St. Joseph’s (2-3), Buffalo (2-1), Miami (4-1), Towson (2-2), Missouri State (2-3), UConn (2-1) and Xavier (4-0).

Florida was in desperate need of a win after dropping its last two contests a free falling out of the Top-25 altogether.

Here’s what the Gators did to get back on track against the Hawks.

Keyontae carries the Gators

Sophomore forward Keyontae Johnson held the Hawks at bay with a career-high 22 points and 12 rebounds.

His double-double performance aided the Gators’ weakened starting five, as star transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. logged just three minutes of playing time.

Blackshear Jr. was plagued with foul trouble in the first half and was ejected from the contest for a flagrant 2 foul with 18:30 left in the second half.

His absence gave way to Johnson’s dominant presence.

After it was all said and done, Johnson logged a career-high 37 minutes en route to his double-double.

Johnson finished 9-15 from the field and 2-5 from trey.

Florida was able to survive against St. Joseph’s without Blackshear Jr. Thursday’s scenario a shouldn’t be regular occurrence.

Hot start, cold finish for Florida

The Gators have struggled mightily to sink baskets at the tipoff of the 2019-20 season.

A different offense stepped onto the hardwood on Thursday.

Florida drilled shot after shot, three after three to open up its contest against St. Joseph’s.

After the clock hit zero to close out the first half, the Gators had 41 points to St. Joseph’s 25.

The second half began with Blackshear Jr.’s ejection, followed by a furious comeback by the Hawks and finished with Florida hitting a few key free throws to close the game out.

St. Joseph’s closed the 16-point gap to just two points with just two points after Ryan Daly’s layup with 56 seconds left.

Daly’s bucket made it 64-62 Florida, and it looked as if Daly’s 25-point, 10 rebound performance would be a big story line after the contest.

However, St. Joseph’s was unable to tie the game or take the lead, as Omar Payne, Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke each hit a pair of free throws to end the game on a 6-0 Florida finish.

At game’s end, had shot 44 percent from the field, 32 percent from three and 65 percent from the line.

Florida’s hot start and cold finish evened out to an average stat line by the end.

Blackshear Jr., Florida’s leading scorer to start the season, will give the Gators a chance to play more consistent basketball moving forward.

Looking Ahead

The Gators will play the Miami Hurricanes on Friday at noon.

Miami advanced to the second round after a 74-70 win against Missouri State on Thursday.

It will be the second game in a three-game tournament for Florida.

The winner will advance to the tournament finals, which will be held on Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

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