There may still be a lot about Mike White’s first Gator basketball team that we don’t know. But one thing we do know is that he has begun his tenure at Florida 2-0.
Late Friday night near the nation’s capital, White and his young Gator team kick-started their season with a 59-41 victory over Navy in a rare season opening true road game. They added to their solid start with a 104-54 blowout over North Carolina A&T last night in the O’Dome.
Too early to make judgments? Inferior opponents? Maybe. But keep in mind that preseason top 25 teams Virginia (#6) Wisconsin (#17) and Baylor (#20) have all been upset so far in the young season.
For a little while against Navy, Florida looked like it might join that list. The Gators got off to a rough start against the Midshipmen, falling behind 9-2 after seven minutes of play. But then Devin Robinson grabbed a rebound and put in a layup to start a 15-2 run for Florida, one that put the Gators back in front for good. Led by Robinson and freshman KeVaughn Allen, the Gators were able to wake up and generate enough offensive production to keep Navy behind by double digits the entire second half. Robinson wound up being the team’s high scorer for the night with 13, and grabbed ten rebounds for a double double.
But the fact that Robinson’s 13 points led all Florida scorers epitomized the team’s offensive struggles. Florida finished with 19 turnovers, 3-19 from three point range and a woeful 10-19 from the free throw line. Nonetheless, the Gators were able to lock down on defense and hold on for an ugly 59-41 win.
The Gators looked significantly better last night against North Carolina A&T. Florida roared out of the gates on an 18-2 run, which pretty much ended the game before it started. Although the Gators forced a few shots here and there, the offense generally looked much better against NC A&T than it did against Navy. Six different Gators- Brandone Francis-Ramirez, John Egbunu, Dorian Finney-Smith, DeVon Walker, Robinson and Chris Chiozza- finished with double figures, and Florida finished with triple figures for the first time since doing so against Jacksonville in 2011 in a 104-54 rout.
Among the notables from the A&T game: John Egbunu, the transfer from South Florida, is a MONSTER. Somebody said to me that he looks like a “baby Patric Young” and though I dismissed that at first, now I can kind of see it. He finally gives the Gators a commanding inside presence, which they sorely lacked last season. He still has some work to do in terms of technique, but he brings some of the similar raw athleticism and power we saw from Young early on in his career.
Anyway, now things start to get tougher for Florida. They travel up to Connecticut for a pre-Thanksgiving tournament that pits them against St. Joe’s in one semifinal game, and Purdue and Old Dominion in the other. Florida’s guaranteed two games up there, and they’ll get good tests from whoever they play. Even after that, the Gators don’t get a lot of breather games; road trips to Miami and Michigan State, a home date with Florida State and a neutral site game against Oklahoma State will provide Florida with plenty of opportunities to pick up signature resume-building wins.
But in what we all know is a rebuilding year, all we can look for as fans are signs of improvement. And even though the level of competition hasn’t been great so far, we’ve already seen some.