The UF men’s basketball team readily handled Lynn University last week, but that won’t show up on the official record.
But once it faces off against North Florida this Tuesday, the result will count, and coach Mike White is preparing his squad to start off the regular season strong and begin what will be a three-game homestand with a victory.
Here’s what Florida will be looking to improve in its season opener, and what to expect from the Ospreys:
Swooping into Action
The Gators will meet North Florida for the fifth-consecutive season come Tuesday, and UNF will attempt to get a win for the first time in the series’ history.
North Florida’s game against UF last year ended with a 98-66 defeat, and the rest of the year served to disappoint. The Ospreys finished 16-17 overall and a measly 5-13 record on the road, though they did make it to the semifinals in the Atlantic Sun Championship to end the year.
In 2019, UNF will depend on its star player in senior guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa, who returns to the Ospreys after having led the ASUN in assists per game (5.8) which was good for 24th in the NCAA overall. Gandia-Rosa led the team in points, averaging 13.8 per game, and scored in the double digits in 18 games last year.
After letting Lynn University guard Jordan Allen put up 35 points against them last Tuesday, the Gators will try to prevent Gandia-Rosa from becoming a large part of the UNF offense.
Florida may have landed some notable freshman this offseason, but UNF will get to see the first regular-season action from its own freshman acquisition in Emmanuel Adedoyin. He received a McDonald’s All-American nomination and averaged nine points, three rebounds and six assists during his senior year at Oak Ridge High School.
Chomping at the Bit
White saw both positives and negatives in UF’s exhibition game, and he stressed one aspect in particular as needing the most improvement.
“I didn’t think we rebounded the ball very well,” White said. “Either offensively or defensively. It’s definitely a concern of this staff leading into game one.”
White’s gripe with rebounding factors into the Gators’ defensive struggles as of late. It’s an aspect that White and other members of the team have harped on leading up to Tuesday’s game, and after last week’s exhibition, sophomore guard Andrew Nembhard said he believed the team needed better communication on defense.
Graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. said Florida has been doing their best to address that part of their game.
“We have fans out there, so it’s a little bit different, a little bit harder to hear,” he said. “We talked about it in the locker room. (We’ve) got to be able to echo calls, be able to project our voices a lot so we can help each other out.”
While White had plenty to say about the team’s negatives, he did see some positives in Florida’s performance, including the play of Blackshear Jr. and Nembhard as well as UF’s ability to move the ball around on offense.
Overall, he said the team was in good spirits after the exhibition, and he was optimistic about the young squad’s synergy heading into the Gators’ matchup against UNF.
“I liked the culture,” White said. “I liked the aura between the guys on the floor and on the bench.”
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells. Contact him at [email protected]