Gators Locke Dribbles Ball
Florida's Noah Locke (center) handles the ball during the Gators' 86-40 win over Stetson Sunday, Dec. 7, 2020, in Gainesville. (SEC Media/Anissa Dimilta)

Gators Bottle Hatters in Home Opener, 86-40

After a hectic five days in which the Florida men’s basketball team played three games, the Gators are undefeated. Florida hosted Stetson in its home opener Sunday and stifled the Hatters, 86-40.

The stat sheet clearly displayed the Gators’ strong defensive performance. Stetson shot 19.6% from the field and 66.7% from the charity stripe (16-24). It was the third fewest points allowed in a game by Florida during head coach Mike White’s six seasons with the team.

White showed a quick hook when Stetson guard Chase Johnston nailed an open three within the game’s first minute. He sent Noah Locke, who was guarding Johnston, to the bench immediately. Locke said he agreed with the decision.

White also spoke about his decision to rotate Locke out quickly. He said the team’s depth allowed him to make the switch.

Gators turn defense into offense

During each of the first three games, Florida has done one thing consistently: score points off of turnovers. The Gators are averaging 23 per game.

They slightly edged that number against Stetson. Florida converted 11 turnovers into 24 points.

Scottie Lewis, who put up 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, said he hopes that the team continues this style of play.

Keyontae Johnson yielded another solid performance with 19 points. Tre Mann added 10 points. Locke, who underwent hip surgery in May, finally burst out offensively.

Previously, he shot 3-11 from beyond the arc in two games against Army and Boston College. But he torched the Hatters for 15 points on only six attempts from three.

On the other side of the ball, Tyree Appleby had four steals and Omar Payne three blocks. Collectively, the Florida defense held Stetson’s top scorers Johnston (10 points) and Rob Perry (13 points) to three made field goals each.

Hatters coach Donnie Jones failed to beat his former team. Jones coached at Florida for 11 seasons with Billy Donovan from 1996-07. He helped win back-to-back national championships at Florida.

On the road again

Stetson (0-3) completes a three-game road trip Tuesday against USF. Subsequently, Florida (3-0) travels to Tallahassee to tangle with rival Florida State Saturday. The No. 22 Seminoles (1-0) host Indiana (3-1) Wednesday before clashing with the Gators.

Last season, FSU came to Gainesville and handed Florida a 63-51 loss that set the tone for the rest of the year. The Gators will look to avenge that result and stay unbeaten this time around. Tipoff is at 11 a.m.

Sound used in this story courtesy of GatorVision

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