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Friday, June 21, 2024

In the case of sophomore Marreese Speights, dominating performances against Flagler College and Lynn University may be hard to judge.

But Speights, the Gators' 6-foot-10 big man, is doing all he can to live up to the hype.

After scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the Gators' opening win against Flager, Speights added 18 points in 21 minutes during a 101-65 win against Lynn Monday night.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can regardless of the competition," Speights said. "I'm going out there to play hard and just hope we win."

The victory was the Gators' first 100-point performance at home since defeating Savannah State 113-62 last November.

The fans began the game chanting "Marreese," reminiscent of the days when Joakim Noah was bidding for the opening tip off.

"It gave me goose bumps man," Speights said. "It was weird."

The performance for the Gators center, however, is hard to measure as the Fighting Knights' frontcourt didn't feature a player taller than 6 foot 8.

The Gators' five scholarship freshmen impressed again, this time scoring 71 of the Gators' 101 points. Forward Adam Allen, wearing a football pad on his injured left shoulder, garnered cheers from the crowd with his reckless style of play.

"I think they liked that," said Allen, who had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting. "That's why I try to bring that toughness, that diving into the crowd style of play. I think it's going to help me get a lot more playing time and help us down low."

Guard Jai Lucas led all freshmen with 15 points, and forward Chandler Parsons added 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Donovan continued to shuffle the lineup throughout the game, once again using 12 different combinations in the first half alone.

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Donovan said the trend is in response to fatigue and is likely to continue throughout the season.

Sophomores Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell struggled to score again but did improve upon the team's last game - where they combined to go 0-7 from the field.

Donovan said the effort was there for both players. Mitchell got on the board early with a 3-pointer, but finished with only four points.

Werner struggled throughout, shooting only 1 for 6 from the field. Werner is now 1 for 11 in his first two games.

The Gators defense, which has been emphasized in practice, was shaky in the first half - leading Donovan to express a great deal of concern after the game. Lynn shot 58 percent from the field in the opening period and hit seven 3-pointers.

UF also struggled with rebounding, where the Gators barely topped Lynn 36-35 after being bested on the offensive glass 18-13. This performance comes just after the Gators out-rebounded Flagler 59-33.

This may be a long-term concern, as the team lacks size in the frontcourt and is sure to see much bigger players in the future.

"I thought our guys at times were not aggressive and physically tough enough in the frontcourt to go in there and compete, which is something we need to get better at especially as the competition gets tougher," Donovan said.

The Gators next face North Dakota State in their season opener Friday at 8 p.m.

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