In the thick of the first half, Kevarrius Hayes sent a Jacksonville shot back and into the hands of KeVaughn Allen.
Allen galloped down the court, muscling his way inside for a running layup that found its mark. Although just an exhibition game, Florida’s 88-47 road win against the Jacksonville Dolphins still answered several burning questions throughout the offseason and reflected the team’s potential.
UF coach Mike White stressed that the team still had much to improve upon, and that its AP preseason ranking of No. 8 is nothing more than a number.
“How we handle the expectations is we don’t think about it, period,” White said. “It’s a distraction, it really is.”
One of the most pressing questions was finding new sources of offense, with two of the three double-digit scorers from last season gone.
In the first half, Allen nearly took on that role all by himself. The junior poured in 14 of his 17 points in the first half, scoring more than once on drives to the rim and nailing a pair of three pointers.
Allen also showcased playmaking skills, finishing the game with six assists. For a team that lost one of its premiere playmakers in Kasey Hill, Allen’s passing ability is a promising sign.
Florida’s primary ball-handler, Chris Chiozza, sprained his left shoulder after playing just two minutes, forcing Allen into a heavier playmaking role.
Despite Allen's complete first half, the Gators still had a tough time creating separation on the scoreboard early.
The Dolphins found first-half success inside, with forward Radwan Bakkali leading Jacksonville with seven points and five boards before heading into halftime. At the half, the home team trailed by just 11.
In the second half, Florida competed with a renewed intensity.
The Gators came out firing on all levels, beginning the frame with an 18-0 run. They forced tough offensive possessions on the Dolphins, who couldn’t get a second half score until more than five minutes in. By the end of the onslaught, Florida had built a sturdy 29-point lead.
Overall, Jacksonville shot 23.4 percent from the field and coughed up 19 turnovers.
“Stops leading to transition offense,” White said. “That needs to be our strength. We’ve got to get better, (we’re) not close to last year’s group in that regard right now.”
Redshirt junior guard Jalen Hudson — Florida’s transfer from Virginia Tech — scored eight of his team-leading 21 points during the long run, including two three-pointers.
Egor Koulechov, the Gators other transfer pickup, began the preseason on a high note, adding 17 points in his UF debut.
Freshmen Deaundrae Ballard and Mike Okauru along with redshirt freshman Dontay Bassett all made their college debuts as well.
Ballard chipped in 11 points, while Bassett and Okauru combined for nine points and 11 boards.
While Florida looked strong overall, White wants more from the unit.
“Yeah, I don’t feel better,” White said of the team’s performance. “But I feel like we’re closer because we’ve got that film that never lies.”
The Gators will get another chance at a practice game Sunday against Tampa at 2 p.m. before opening the season on Nov. 13 at home against Gardner-Webb.
You can follow Skyler Lebron on Twitter @SkylerLebron, and contact him at [email protected].