Florida basketball wins exhibition opener, but Mike White is none too pleased

By Adam Silverstein
October 31, 2018
Florida basketball wins exhibition opener, but Mike White is none too pleased

Image Credit: ESPN Images

With a bevy of new players and flirting with the preseason top 25, Florida Gators basketball took the court for the first time on Tuesday in an exhibition game not available to be viewed either on television or online. Florida hosted the Florida dusted the Florida Southern Mocs 95-70 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, leading wire-to-wire without much concern throughout.

The Gators shot 50 percent from the field and 52 percent from beyond the arc, but that does not mean the team played particularly well. Florida had 15 turnovers to 16 assists, made just 61 percent of its free throws and missed seven layups in the contest, seeing its massive lead cut to as few as 14 points in the second half.

There were six Gators in double figures with redshirt senior guard Jalen Hudson‘s 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc leading the way. Sophomore G Deaundrae Ballard posted 13 points on identical 3-of-6 three-point shooting, leading a bench that scored nearly two-thirds of UF’s team points.

Freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard, Florida’s top incoming player as a five-star prospect rated 23rd nationally, had a rough debut, hitting just 2-of-7 shots for four points with four dimes and three giveaways. On the other hand, four-star freshman forward Keyontae Johnson showed out with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with eight boards in 20 minutes.

Despite some bright spots, head coach Mike White felt as if the Gators were “exposed” by the Mocs late in the first half, a lull that bled into the second half.

“We’ve got a ways to go,” he said, taking a breath. “… There’s a lot to take from these games [such as] the deficiencies of certain individuals, the deficiencies of our team — offensively and defensively, the fact that we looked like a pretty good team in spurts … I don’t know if you want me to go any further.”

He continued later: “I wasn’t pleased with the way we responded. As our veterans know, when you take a dip defensively and lose your edge … it’s really hard to get it back. … We came out and got torched early in the second half. That will be a talk I’m sure we’ll have a few times this year.”

All 12 scholarship players saw action in the game, including redshirt freshman center Isaiah Stokes, who sat out all last season with a knee injury and went 3-for-6 from the field in nine minutes.

Florida will open the 2018-19 season in one week when it hits the road to face No. 17 Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida, next Tuesday. The game will tip at 9 p.m. ET and air live nationally on ESPN2. It will be the Gators’ only televised game until Nov. 21, though its other two contests in early November will stream live online.

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