There were a few expectations for the Gators ahead of their final non-conference game before SEC play starts next weekend.
Score a lot of points, win comfortably and give the young roster more minutes together in low-pressure situations.
It’s safe to say that the Gators checked all of those boxes on Saturday.
Florida steamrolled the Long Beach State from the opening tip en route to a 102-63 win as the Gators prepare for its SEC opener against Alabama next Saturday. Florida’s 102 points is a season-high and roughly 31 points higher than its season average of 70.8.
UF shot 53 percent from the field and 40 percent beyond the three-point line. Six Florida players scored double-digit points, while guard Andrew Nembhard had a career-best 13 assists.
The Gators (8-4) scored 14 unanswered points in just under four minutes to kickstart a 20-3 run to open the game.
After an LBSU layup made it 25-10 in the middle of the first half, Florida went on a 16-5 run over roughly two-and-a-half minutes for a 41-15 lead. The Gators ended up scoring almost as many points in the first half (59) as it did all game against Utah State (62).
Forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. tied forward Keyontae Johnson for the team lead in points with 21. Eighteen of Blackshear’s points came in the first half, when he shot 4 for 6 from the field with two three-pointers. He was also a perfect 8 for 8 from the free-throw line.
The Gators’ performance carried over into the second half, outscoring the Beach 43-32 and letting its bench get more minutes. Three freshmen -- guards Tre Mann and Ques Glover and center Omar Payne -- played at least 20 minutes on Saturday.
Payne’s 22 minutes were the most he had played since foul trouble in the win over St. Joseph’s led to him playing 28. The freshman scored a career-high 11 points against LBSU as well as a career-high nine rebounds.
Glover had a career-high 24 minutes, and he scored 11 points and had four rebounds.
Florida dominated the Beach (4-11) on the glass as well. The Gators won the rebound battle 49-31 and had 16 offensive rebounds to LBSU’s seven. Florida’s misses often turned into tips at the rim, rebounds and trips to the free-throw line. UF tallied 22 second-chance points.
The Gators scored plenty of points in multiple ways on Saturday, but the team’s struggles at the free-throw line continued against the Beach. As a team, Florida made 16 of its 29 attempts, but remove Blackshear’s perfect performance, and that drops to just 8-for-21 (.381) shooting from the charity stripe.
UF’s offense responded well after a brutal performance against Utah State last weekend, and it will need a similar effort in conference play.
Contact Brendan at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Bfarrell727