For the 20th consecutive time, No. 9/11 Florida Gators basketball (1-0) won their regular season opener, defeating the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks (0-1) 77-60 Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Senior forward Chandler Parsons led the way for Florida with 16 points in the contest.
Tied at six early, the Gators missed six consecutive wide-open shots and turned the ball over five times, allowing the Seahawks to go up 11-6. Fed up with the performance of his starters, head coach Billy Donovan made a mass substitution that paid off when freshmen guard Casey Prather and point guard Scottie Wilbekin made back-to-back hustle plays to knot the score at 11.
Florida started pulling away from there, taking a 37-26 lead over UNC-Wilmington at the half when Parsons concluded an 8-0 run with a buzzer-beating put-back layup. He scored 12 of his game-high 16 points in the first half, while Wilbekin and junior PG Erving Walker each had three steals.
Read the rest of the Friday’s game story along with post-game news & notes…
The Gators continued their onslaught out of the locker room, using an 8-2 run (16-2 spanning the half) to go up 45-28. After some back-and-forth, Parsons grabbed a steal and took it coast-to-coast for a jam giving UF a 63-42 lead with 9:50 remaining.
Minutes later, senior F Alex Tyus scored four-straight points and freshman center Patric Young notched his first basket to give Florida a game-high 24-point lead (71-47) with 6:39 left in the game. Donovan put the Gators on cruise control at that point, allowing the freshmen and reserves to see more court time to close out the contest.
Parsons’ game-high 16 points came on 7-of-13 shooting; he also grabbed five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Tyus started off slow but ended up with 13 points (4-of-6), a team-high seven rebounds, three assists and a block. Struggling from the field was sophomore G Kenny Boynton, who was only 2-of-9 but got to the line eight times and posted 10 points. Walker contributed nine points, six rebounds and three steals, redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin posted nine points (4-of-8) two rebounds and two assists, sophomore F Erik Murphy added 10 points, and Wilbekin dished out five assists to go along with four steals.
Guards Chad Tomko and Trevor Deloach led the way for the Seahawks with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
As a team, UF out-shot UNC-W 49.1-47.9 percent, out-rebounded them 31-21, dished out seven more assists (18-11) and turned the ball over 15 times compared to 20 for their opponent.
Florida is set to face No. 4/5 Ohio State in four days at home in the O’Connell Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. with the game airing live on ESPN.
DONOVAN’s POST-GAME QUOTES
Opening statement: “Being the first game, our guys came out and I think they played with very, very good energy. We were a little bit rushed offensively in the first half, certainly the first 10 minutes. We turned them over 20 times and you got to be aggressive to create 20 turnovers, but at the same point we gave up probably some easy baskets and some ill-advised baskets that we didn’t need to give up which resulted in them shooting probably a higher percentage than we would have liked. The effort was there and now we just got to get a better understanding. I’m happy with the win, but there’s a lot we have to get ready and get prepared for right before we play Ohio State.”
On Wilbekin’s performance: “Scottie I thought played very, very well. It’s pretty impressive what he’s done being really, in a lot of respects, a senior in high school. He’s a good defender and he’s a tough kid, and he’s a physical kid, and he’s got good speed.”
On Young’s performance: “Patric Young, this was a great game for him. Probably in high school he just was the biggest, the strongest, the toughest and everything was all brute strength. Right now he’s having to learn how to play the game because he’s not the biggest and the strongest and the baddest all the time on the court. He’s got a lot of growing he’s got to do, but the one thing about him is he plays hard. He’s very, very vocal. He’s a great kid and he’s a team guy. But he’s got to really continue to develop and evolve in our frontcourt because I think he’s an important piece for us. We need him to mature as a player because he adds something to our frontcourt physically that we need.”
On coming out strong in the second half: “We came out with the right energy and the right mindset. We got a couple stops, we built on the lead. I thought the first four minutes we set a pretty good tone for our team.”
On the scoring issues early in the game: “We are a team that can go through some droughts scoring. The one thing I always worry about with young players is… There’s a different bounce to guys’ steps when shots are going in. We haven’t been a prolific scoring team and a knock-down jump shooting team. I try to give them freedom because I do think when you do that, they could have a game where they make 12, 13, 14 threes in a game. But we can’t let a lack of knocking down three point shots discourage us as a team that there’s other things that we can do to put ourselves in a position to win. We can’t allow when the ball’s not going in the basket to affect the other end of the court.”
On how Boynton has improved: “He sees the floor so much better. He makes the extra pass, he moves the ball pretty well; he got Erving some shots, he got Chandler some shots. The only way you can get an assist is if you throw the ball to somebody and they shoot it and it goes in. I keep hearing about how many assists [Rajon] Rondo’s had over these last several games. Well, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and [Kevin] Garnett are making shots. Kenny Boynton could have had more assists tonight because of his ball movement, but a lot of the ball movement that he did did not result in guys making shots.”
On how Walker played: “He was OK. He was OK. I want Erving to take more charge of our team and of our offense. There’s times where we get out on the break and the ball’s not in his hands and he needs to take more command of going and getting the ball and settling us down. There’s got to be a better awareness from Erving to sit there, put the ball under his armpit and say, ‘Woah. Let’s slow down here and let’s get what we need.’”
On the players not fully understanding the philosophy: “They don’t totally understand that when you’re trying to create a style of play, so much of a style of play is not necessarily predicated on playing fast. What it’s predicated on is…When the ball goes in the basket for us, it allows us to change defenses, to create an opportunity to get steals or to force a team to hurry. But when we don’t make shots, the other team has a better opportunity to control tempo. We got to do a better job understanding: It’s great to get on the break, steal, quick pass and it’s a wide open three. The discipline part, we got to get better.”
Photo Credit: University of Florida/GatorZone.com