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Florida Gators basketball (1-0) kicked off the 2016-17 season, its second under head coach Mike White, by using a dominant second half effort to cruise to an 80-59 victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (0-1) on Friday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s win with six quick-hitters.
It was over when … Florida rallied back from a shocking 50-45 second-half deficit with a 15-0 run, capitalizing on five FGCU turnovers to jump ahead 60-50. The Eagles hit 6-of-7 shots to start the second half and looked like they were going to put up a fight, but the Gators took it to them. Florida outscored FGCU 35-9 from that point forward and closed the game on a 12-1 run.
Exceptional efforts: Senior point guard Kasey Hill played a controlled game Friday, taking high-percentage shots, controlling the ball, directing the offense and hustling on the defensive end. Hill hit 4-of-5 shots and 3-of-4 free throws for 11 points, dished four dimes, grabbed three rebounds and swiped the ball twice while only turning it over once. Also impressive was junior F Devin Robinson, who went 2-for-2 from downtown and hit all four of his free throws for 14 points with six rebounds, three steals and two blocks in just 24 minutes.
Significant stat: One of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation last season, the Gators spent time on improving their mark at the charity stripe over the last few months. It showed on Friday as Florida went 20-for-26 from the line (.769) with every player who attempted a free throw making at least one. Especially impressive was sophomore forward/center Kevarrius Hayes, who went 5-for-5 from the line. Hayes also went 2-for-2 from the field with nine points and five boards in just 14 minutes.
What it means: Florida looked to be in danger of losing on opening night for the first time since 1991 but held on for its 26th consecutive 1-0 start to the season. The Gators also showed some significant resiliency despite being unexpectedly tested early in the game.
Odds and ends: Redshirt junior C John Egbunu took advantage of the Eagles on the inside by hitting 6-of-11 shots (missing a couple wide-open dunks) for 13 points and eight rebounds … sophomore G KeVaughn Allen underwhelmed going 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 from downtown … in his Florida debut, graduate transfer Canyon Barry scored 13 points but missed all three of his triples and surprisingly went 3-for-6 from the line … also playing their first games with the Gators were redshirt freshman F Keith Stone and freshmen G Eric Hester and C Gorjok Gak … UF only committed seven turnovers in the game compared to 13 steals … Florida dominated the paint, outscoring FGCU 46-26 down low
Up next: UF will complete its weekend in Jacksonville when it “hosts” Mercer on Sunday at 8 p.m. in Florida’s first televised game of the season. The contest will air live nationally on ESPNU.