Six things to know as Florida opens new O’Dome in style with blowout win

By Adam Silverstein
December 22, 2016
Six things to know as Florida opens new O’Dome in style with blowout win

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Florida Gators basketball (9-3) may have fallen from the top 25 polls last week, but it’s continued its recent stretch of dominance on Wednesday when it opened up the newly renovated Stephen C. O’Connell Center with a dominant 94-71 win over the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (9-4).

The $64.5 million spent to update the arena was on display with SEC Network in town to call the action, though plenty of the renovated space remains unseen by the general public. Still, it was the perfect way for the Gators to open the new O’Dome as they pieced together an offensive explosion in the first half and rode it to an easy victory. breaks down Wednesday’s win below.

It was over when … The first-half buzzer sounded. Florida jumped ahead 20 midway through the half and extended its lead to 29 points at the break. The Gators opened up the game 21-of-28 from the field with sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen and junior forward Devin Robinson combining to go 7-of-9 from downtown with 29 points. Senior point guard Kasey Hill also made five of his first six shots as Florida shot 68.8 percent from the field and 9-of-16 from downtown in the opening 20 minutes.

Exceptional efforts: Allen and Robinson continued their dominant play in the second half. Allen finished 7-for-10 from the field (5-for-7 from deep) with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Robinson hit 7-of-11 shots (4-of-5 from beyond the arc) with a game-high 21 points, seven boards and three dimes.

Significant stats: Florida’s bench saw extended action considering its advantage and managed to drop in 31 points on the evening, which played a big role in the Gators hitting a season-high 59.6 percent of their attempts. UF was also 51.6 percent from three and 76.9 percent from the charity stripe on 13 attempts, the ninth time in 12 games it has shot better than 70 percent on free throws.

Odds and ends: The Gators took a game-high 35-point lead midway through the second half … Hill posted the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 11 dimes, and he also registered team-highs of three steals and four turnovers … sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes, who started in place of injured redshirt junior C John Egbunu (hamstring), was a perfect 5-for-5 with 12 points and eight boards; he is clearly growing each game on defense, too … everyone who played for Florida scored except senior F Justin Leon, who missed all four of his shots and didn’t even grab a rebound in 21 minutes … the Gators led the entire game

What it means: Florida was clearly excited to play and showed up at home ready to exorcise some shooting demons, having now scored 181 points combined in its last two games coming off tough back-to-back losses to Duke and Florida State. The Gators sit at 9-3 despite only playing one home game over the first half of their season and enter the break on a roll. Their start is actually similar to the 2015-16 season with losses coming to the best three teams they faced, but the way Florida has played against lesser competition makes it obvious that the team has taken a step forward already this season.

Up next: UF kicks off SEC play on Thursday after an eight-day rest when it hits the road to face Arkansas at 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network. Back-to-back home games follow in the O’Dome.

One Comment

  1. Michael Duggar says:

    Trekked down from Jacksonville for the game Wednesday night and had lots of fun! If we could have had but three of those treys in the Gonzaga game or FSU game, we could be sitting 11-1. Really great team basketball and some hard work on the defensive end against a team who had beaten Purdue in the NCAA last season (oh yeah the same Purdue team who thrashed us at the Mohegan Sun tourney last fall!). The SEC looks its normal Kentucky’s “one-and-doners” and mediocre everybody else although South Carolina started out hot before losing to the same Seton Hall team the Gators defeated at the Advocare Tourney in Orlando during Thanksgiving.

    Hopefully the renovated arena will translate into getting back to signing at least one of Florida’s Mr. Basketball’s like we had done for quite a few years. Depending on how much further improvement is made during the SEC season and no significant injuries, we look like a 5-8 seed in the NCAA tournament.

    Kudos to Kasey Hill who has been much maligned over the years and whose hard work on his shooting is really paying off. Hopefully, his improved outside and free throw shooting will force defenses to come out and contest him, and with his quickness, open up the lane for penetration and easy lay-ins.

    Looking forward to the opening game at Arkansas in Bud Walton arena…a basketball mecca of sorts. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all and GO GATORS.

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