Freshman guard Noah Locke made sure Florida wouldn’t fall prey to an upset over holiday break, scoring a team-high 18 points and made five 3-pointers, lifting the host Gators to a 71-63 win over Mercer in Gainesville, Fla.
Locke, 6-3, a Baltimore, Md., native, went 6 of 13 from the field and 5 of 11 from 3-point range to post his third game scoring in double figures this season.
Senior guard KeVaughn Allen added 15 points for the Gators, while freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard had 10 points and seven assists.
The Gators (6-4) at times looked rusty following a 10-day layoff for final exams, but they were able to bounce back from a 63-59 home loss to Michigan State.
Florida led by as many as 16 points in the second half, but Mercer nearly rallied back late, cutting UF’s lead to 60-54 on a steal and breakaway layup by guard Ethan Stair with 1:22 remaining.
The Gators were able to close out the game by making 9 of 11 free throws and getting a transition dunk from senior center Kevarrius Hayes, who finished with 8 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Ross Cummings led Mercer (4-7) with 18 points.
Florida jumped to an early 10-4 lead but was unable to sustain the momentum. Cummings’ third 3-pointer of the first half for Mercer cut UF’s lead 20-19.
The Bears then took a brief 25-23 lead on back to back 3-pointers from junior guard Djordje Dimitrijevic.
The Gators closed the half with an 11-3 run.
A Stone 3-pointer put Florida up 31-26 with 2:21 left in the first half. After Cummings hit a pair of free throws to cut the Gators’ lead to 31-28, Locke made a 3-pointer at the first half buzzer, putting the Gators up 34-28 at halftime.
Florida shot just 39.4 percent from the field in the first half but held Mercer to 37.5 percent shooting.
Florida played without sophomore guard Deaundrae Ballard and redshirt freshman forward Chase Johnson, who sat out the game due to illness.
—Field Level Media