The crowd in Gainesville exploded as bucket after bucket sank. Shooters couldn’t miss, and fans sporting orange and blue were in awe of the offensive showing.
The upside was on full display as no one on this young squad was taller than five feet, and on a school night no less.
That was the scene at halftime on Wednesday as a group of elementary school kids played a pickup game on the O’Connell Center hardwood on superhero night while Florida was down 41-26 against Georgia.
An anxious crowd that only saw UF make 11 field goals in the first half was finally privy to some exciting back and forth action on Wednesday when Georgia was in the midst of embarrassing UF on its home floor.
Future NBA Lottery pick and UGA guard Anthony Edwards might as well have been guarded by one of those children up until that point. Edwards had 18 points and was 4 for 5 from three-point range when he went to the visitor’s locker room at halftime.
A man among boys.
Not known to Edwards or any of the disgusted fans in attendance, but coach Mike White challenged his team to show some toughness in the second half and even called them soft.
“I called them that a bunch through this year,” White said. “We’re not the toughest team, of course.”
A team of boys went into the locker room at halftime, and a group of men emerged.
Down by as many as 22, the Gators exploded in the second half, with their comeback tying a school record in the 81-75 win.
Guard Tre Mann lived up to his name as the freshman seemingly grew up right in front of the Gainesville crowd. He had 11 points, all in the second half, and drew two huge charges down the stretch.
Forward Keyontae Johnson finished with 15 points (13 in the second half), and no one shined brighter than guard Andrew Nembhard.
The sophomore scored 19 of his 25 points in an 11-minute shooting clinic in the second half and had 11 of UF’s last 12 points. The crowd erupted each time the point guard made one of his seven second-half field goals.
This was especially the case when Nembhard sealed the game on a steal and dunk (the first dunk of his college career) with 19 seconds to go in the game to put UF up 79-73.
Much has been expected of Nembhard this season, but White has stated previously that there is never a situation where he goes to Nembhard and says, “Hey, you need to get us 25.”
An argument could be made that White should, however. The Gators are 3-0 when Nembhard scores more than 20 this season, and his aggression may be the key to future success.
Nemhard said that he didn’t go out and try to score 25, but the 20-year-old from Aurora, Ontario, Canada, did bashfully put an end to any rumors around his team’s psyche.
“I think we’re a confident team, I don’t think that narrative of us not being (or) not having confidence is real…anymore.”
It remains to be seen if this team will revert to its immature tendencies in the future, but on Wednesday, Florida was devoid of any boys. Only men played on that court on superhero night.
Follow Joseph Salvador on Twitter @JSalvadorSports. Contact him at [email protected].