Florida reeled off the game’s first 14 points and cruised to a 102-63 victory over Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla., in the Gators’ final game before SEC play.
Graduate transfer forward Kerry Blackshear and sophomore forward Keyontae Johnson scored 21 points apiece to pace six double-figure scorers as Florida (8-4) flipped the script from its previous game — when the Gators missed their first 14 shots and scored just two points in the opening 8:49 of a 65-62 loss to Utah State.
Florida reached the 100-point mark for the first time since earning a 111-105 double-overtime victory over Gonzaga in the PK80 Tournament on Nov. 24, 2017.
Sophomore guard Chance Hunter posted 20 points to pace Long Beach State (4-11) while sophomore guard Michael Carter and junior guard Colin Slater added 10 points apiece. The Beach lost for the seventh time in eight games as it shot just 37.3 percent from the field and got outrebounded by a 49-31 margin.
Sophomore point guard Andrew Nembhard, who delivered a career-high 13 assists, set the game’s tone by spreading the wealth in the opening three minutes. He assisted on the Gators’ first four baskets as he set up sophomore guard Noah Locke (16 points) for a 3-pointer, freshman center Omar Payne for a layup, Blackshear for a 3-pointer and Locke for another 3-pointer as Florida seized an 11-0 lead.
The Gators drilled five of their first six shots while Long Beach State went 0 for 5 and committed two turnovers before picking up its first point on Carter’s free throw with 15:41 left in the first half.
Florida, which entered the day shooting just 30 percent from 3-point range and making six 3-pointers per game, canned 7 of 13 3-point attempts in the opening 13 minutes. Nembhard’s 3-pointer with 7:54 left in the half pushed the Gators’ lead to 41-15.
Florida wound up with a 59-31 halftime lead, which left the Gators just nine points shy of their season average for a game. Blackshear owned 18 points at the break while Johnson added 12 and Nembhard handed out nine assists with no turnovers.
The Gators couldn’t quite keep up that pace during the second half yet continued to build their lead. They cracked the 100-point barrier on freshman center Jason Jitoboh’s free throw with 2:21 to go.
Florida played without freshman swingman Scottie Lewis, who suffered a concussion during practice. Payne made his first start in Lewis’ stead.
—Field Level Media