UF coach Mike White had a lot to smile about after a season-opening win on Monday.
He was happy with the 34-point performance by Rice graduate transfer Egor Koulechov, who dominated the game from beyond the arc and inside the paint. Another was the assist-turnover ratio, where the Gators had 26 assists and turned the ball over just eight times.
White was also impressed with how some of the freshmen played against Gardner-Webb. He said guard Mike Okauru and forward Chase Johnson were progressing well and starting to mesh with the team, while Deaundrae Ballard and Dontay Bassett are still adjusting to college basketball.
“These new guys, especially the freshmen, they’re taking small steps,” White said.
The freshmen will keep taking more steps Thursday night at 7 when the Gators (1-0) take on North Florida (0-3) in the O’Connell Center.
White has a lot of trust in this year’s freshman class. In the first half of Monday’s game, Okauru, Johnson, Ballard and Bassett were all on the court at the same time and held their own in the game, providing Florida with some much-needed depth.
White hopes they will play a larger role against the Ospreys, a team that attempted 40 three-pointers against VCU on Monday. While UNF hasn’t won a game yet, it’s three-point shooting will test Florida’s ability to defend the perimeter.
“They’re always a terrific three-point shooting team,” White said. “They rely on it and they shoot it well.”
The Ospreys are led by sophomore guards Garrett Sams and Ivan Gandia-Rose, who average 16.0 and 15.0 points per game, respectively. Redshirt sophomore guard T.J. Escobar also provides a solid scoring option as well, with 13.0 points per game.
However, UNF struggles defensively, having been outrebounded by 25 in its first two games against Michigan State and Michigan, and having recorded just 10 blocks across three games.
Meanwhile, Florida is coming off a 42-point drubbing over Gardner-Webb where Koulechov was a difference maker. Performances by Okauru, Ballard and Johnson were largely overshadowed, as they combined for 36 points and eight rebounds.
White said Koulechov’s performance was part of the Gators’ offensive system where those in a rhythm will continue to receive the ball, and by the way some of the freshmen have been playing, they could be leading the scoring charge against the Ospreys.
“We have an equal opportunity offense, White said. “We’ll see who leads us in scoring the next night.”
You can follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake, and contact him at [email protected].