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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

When UF coach Billy Donovan said the Gators starting lineup was due to change, he wasn't kidding.

After beginning the game with the expected setup of Marreese Speights, Dan Werner and the three-guard combination of Walter Hodge, Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas, Donovan began an early-season experiment in the 97-51 victory over Flagler College on Thursday night.

Donovan used 13 different lineups in the first half alone, using the same five on the court only twice. He said the changes were more a result of fatigue than anything else.

BWe don?t have quite an understanding of how hard we have to play at this level to have a chance to win,C Donovan said. BI didn?t want guys to be playing to keep themselves fresh. I want them to play to exhaust themselves.

BI think guys were giving everything they had out there. So the lineups tonight were more predicated on fatigue than anything else.C

Where Donovan will head from here is hard to determine, as the game against Flagler may have left more questions than answers.

The Gators got off to a slow start in their exhibition opener. At the 12-minute mark in the first half, the lead was a mere five points at 16-11. The Gators began to pull away, hitting a few outside shots before forcing Flagler to take a timeout trailing the Gators 34-17.

Sophomores Jonathan Mitchell and Dan Werner both failed to score. Donovan did note after the game that he thought Werner played well without scoring, which was evident by his seven assists.

Mitchell was a different story. He seemed shaky at times and elected to pass rather than look for his own shots.

Freshman Nick Calathes proved he can compete at the college level in his first outing.

Donovan downplayed the guard throughout practice, but the coach showed his level of confidence in Calathes, playing him 33 minutes, the most of any player.

Calathes played everywhere from point guard to small forward, and was only two assists shy of a triple-double in his first game, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out eight assists. Former UF forward Corey Brewer is the only player in school history to achieve a triple-double.

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BI just try to fill the stat sheet like coach tells me to do,C Calathes said. BJust go out there and play hard, do what I can to win.C

Speights led all scorers with 22, and all five freshmen tallied double figures.

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