Keyontae Johnson

Keyontae Johnson

Florida forward Keyontae Johnson was lying on the ground after colliding with Ole Miss forward Blake Hinson with 4:14 to go in the first half on Tuesday.

Hinson was driving to the basket for a baseline dunk before Johnson met him at the rim and took a shot to the ribs.

He laid flat on his back with his fingers intertwined and the back of his hands covering his eyes. He was in pain, and the Gainesville home crowd seemed uneasy.

Strangely enough, none of Johnson’s teammates or coaches seemed worried about him. They were worried about the next play.

The entire team huddled around coach Mike White as he drew up the next possession.

It wasn’t long until Johnson returned to his feet of his own volition. The crowd at the O’Connell Center cheered as if the 6-foot-5 sophomore had just scored a game-winner.

The crowd didn’t know, but he was just catching his breath.

“I just got the wind knocked out of my stomach,” Johnson said. “I was trying to catch my breath real fast. It was nothing serious.”

Meanwhile, his teammates were unsurprised to see him join the huddle. They never blinked. It’s what they expect from him.

At the time, Johnson had 11 points to lead all UF scorers.

Right behind him was fellow sophomore Andrew Nembhard with 10 points at the end of the half.

Throughout the game, the two continued to showcase their talents. Whether it was Johnson hitting Nembhard under the basket with a perfect bounce pass or the two locking down the Rebels — who shot just 40 percent from the field.

The two sophomores made their presence known, and it’s still clear that they are highly regarded by the home crowd.

Despite the offseason acquisition of graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., it seems that this squad is still led by this class of 2018 duo.

Johnson led the team with 15 points, and Nembhard had six assists to go with his 10 points.

Johnson got it done on both sides of the ball, which was best illustrated when he drew a charge in the first half before converting on an and-one right after as he barreled his way to the basket. He also finished with three steals.

Nembhard has been up and down as of late. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, he was mostly up.

The 6-foot-5 guard was in complete control throughout the game despite not scoring in the second half. He had six rebounds and ripped the ball twice while shooting 71.4% from the field.

The duo first half performance and early scoring paved the way for the rest of the team to get involved and pull out the 71-55 win.

“All the attention started going on Andrew, then I got open and the attention went on me, then it got other people open so that helped us,” Johnson said.

Tuesday’s win was White’s 100th as a coach while at Florida and he couldn’t help but rave of past players who have contributed to his win column like Canyon Berry and Chris Chiozza.

Nembhard and Johnson are the latest names who White will surely remember when he looks back on his career.

Follow Joseph on Twitter @JSalvadorSports and contact him at [email protected].

Joseph Salvador is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida and was previously Sports Editor for Broward College's newspaper The Observer. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2019.