Nearly nine minutes into the first half, the Gators swung the ball around the perimeter and into the hands of Egor Koulechov.
The graduate transfer rose up over a New Hampshire defender, released and sunk the three-pointer.
After the Gators attempted 54 three-point shots in their first two games of the regular season, it became clear they had a green light to shoo…
In a game in which buckets were hard to come by, timely shots helped the No. 8 Gators squeak past the Wildcats, 70-63, in the opening game of the Phil Knight Invitational at the O’Connell Center.
“Probably a little bit overly comfortable coming into this one,” coach Mike White said of the win. “Feeling ourselves a little bit, so hopefully it’ll be good for us.”
Before Koulechov’s make from beyond the arc, the Gators missed five consecutive three-point attempts.
Overall, Florida (3-0) shot a paltry 32.1 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from behind the arc.
The first half started and ended in an offensive slog for Florida, and the lead shifted hands between the home and away team. The Gators ended the half missing their last eight attempts from the field.
Several UF players struggled to get anything going offensively. It was an uncharacteristic performance for a team that scored over 100 points in its first two games.
“You have nights like that,” senior point guard Chris Chiozza said. “We gotta get to a point where when those shots aren’t going in, we can rely on our defense.”
Junior guard KeVaughn Allen made just one of his seven shot attempts through the first 20 minutes, while redshirt junior Jalen Hudson— who was averaging 14 points coming into the night — tallied only four points on 1-of-3 shooting in the opening half.
Both teams went into the locker room knotted at 32. New Hampshire shot 34.4 percent, but stayed alive thanks to four three-pointers, two from guard John Ogwuche.
Meanwhile, Florida finished the half with Koulechov as the only player to make more than one field goal.
To begin the second frame, the Gators came out with a new level of energy. Chiozza muscled his way inside the lane for a layup on the opening possession, then rattled home a three-pointer on the next trip down the court.
However, the Wildcats (1-2) refused to lie down. A fall-away three from Ogwuche gave New Hampshire a 49-48 lead with 9:27 left.
A few seconds later, Hudson cruised down the lane and slammed down a dunk, retaking the lead for Florida.
Hudson scored nine straight after the Ogwuche make, hitting four free throws and nailing a three to give the Gators a six-point lead, 57-51.
Florida didn’t trail after that run.
“I was just trying to win,” Hudson said. “That’s the most important thing, that’s what we all came here to do.”
Hudson scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half to lead Florida. Chiozza chipped in 12, while Koulechov added a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
While the team slightly raised its offensive efforts in the second half, it only recorded three total assists, showcasing a stagnation in its ball distribution.
“I think it’s probably good for our guys,” White said of the win. “We’ve got to get tougher. Our attention to detail, and our focus, especially defensively, has a ways to go.”
You can follow Skyler Lebron on Twitter @SkylerLebron, and contact him at email@example.com.