Florida Gators basketball (1-0) opened the 2015-16 season Friday by taking down the Navy Midshipmen (0-1) in the Veterans Classic at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Maryland.
With the 59-41 victory, the Gators won their first game under new head coach Mike White in what was the team’s first road season opener since 2000-01.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s season opener with seven quick-hitters:
It was over when: Redshirt freshman guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez drained the first three-pointer of his career to put Florida up 40-26 with just over 11 minutes to play. The Gators used a 9-0 run to take a 17-point lead shortly thereafter and held on to their sizable advantage – pushing it as high as 20 – for the duration of the contest. Ramirez made 2-of-6 shots with five point sand three rebounds in his first game.
Prominent player: While sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza was a spark plug for Florida in the game, it was sophomore forward Devin Robinson who really helped turn things around for the Gators. He notched a career-high eight rebounds in the first half alone and finished the game with 13 points, 10 boards and two blocks, going 5-for-10 from the field and 2-for-3 from the line. “I just know what’s expected of me,” Robinson said. “I just knew I just had to do whatever it takes for our team to get extra possessions, play hard to help the team.”
First half focus (U-G-L-Y): Florida could not have started its first seven minutes of the 2015-16 season any worse. UF began 1-for-7 from the field with seven turnovers and six fouls in seven-plus minute; as such, it trailed Navy 9-2 in the early going. It took the Gators 7:10 to score their second bucket (the first came three seconds into the game from freshman guard KeVaughn Allen), but when the ball did go in the basket again, it didn’t stop. Florida used a 19-4 stretch to take a 21-13 lead on its hosts and ended the half on a 27-10 run to lead 29-19 at the break. Overall, UF totaled 11 turnovers and 10 fouls in 20 minutes, going just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.
“Coming off the year that we had last year, I think everyone was eager to get back on the court and get that first win of the year. I think that’s why we came out a little jittery and had a couple turnovers, because everybody was excited to get out there and show our record last year doesn’t reflect the team this year,” Chiozza said. “We were just revved up and had to settle down. Once we settled down, we got in our groove and took off.”
Standout stats: The Gators made 23 field goals, a low number, especially considering they committed 19 turnovers and 19 fouls. (UF also only totaled eight assists on those 23 baskets.)
“I think what we’re realizing here over time is that [our turnovers problems are] not a one-game deal or a week-long in practice type deal. This is a problem for us,” White explained. “It might get to the point where we put certain rules on certain guys in terms of when they can dribble and when they can’t; when they’re supposed to look in the post and when they’re not. We’re not a great passing team is what we’re realizing. But, I don’t think we’re a bad passing team either. I think some of these turnovers are just lax decisions or being casual with the ball, going after a ball with one hand. Some of them are just passes that should have never been attempted in the first place. I think a lot of it you can clean up, but some of it might start with defining roles even more, which is all part of nonconference seasons.”
What it means: Florida was supposed to win Friday night, and it did just that … but the Gators certainly looked sloppy on the journey to victory. They will get another tune-up soon, but UF does not look ready for prime time … not by a long shot.
“Feels good to be 1-0, of course. It wasn’t overly pretty for us, especially offensively, but I thought we found a defensive rhythm. I thought we played pretty hard, flew around at times,” White said. “I’d like to credit Navy. Defensively, I thought they were really good, kept us off balance. Their matchup zone was a big factor; defended us at a high level.”
Next up: North Carolina A&T will take a trip to Gainesville for Florida’s home opener on Monday at 8 p.m. The game will only be available on SEC Network + making it the first of two consecutive contests that can only be viewed via online streaming. UF’s next televised game is on Nov. 22 against either Old Dominion or Purdue.
Everything else: Redshirt senior F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida’s best player, went 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-3 from three with team-highs of 12 rebounds and five turnovers in 21 minutes … the Gators were better from the free throw line Friday in that they actually made some go in, but Florida was still an awful 10-of-19 (.526) … it was at least a higher percentage than UF shot from beyond the arc, where it went 3-of-19 (.158) … the Gators outrebounded the Midshipmen 47-33 … Allen played 21 minutes in his debut, scoring nine points (second-most on the team) … centers John Egbunu and Schuyler Rimmer combined to go 5-for-5 with 10 points and 12 rebounds (Egbunu added two steals and two blocks).