After losing two of three games last week at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas, Florida was in search of a bounce-back win at home Tuesday night against North Florida.
Behind a pair of freshmen, the Gators delivered.
Shooting guard Noah Locke scored a career-high 18 points and point guard Andrew Nembhard added a career-high 11 assists, lifting Florida to a 98-66 win in Gainesville, Fla.
Locke, inserted into Florida’s starting lineup to replace struggling senior guard Jalen Hudson, led six Gator in double-figures scoring.
Sophomore guard Deaundrae Ballard added 15 points off the bench, senior guard KeVaughn Allen had 13 points and senior center Kevarrius Hayes had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Freshman forward Keyontae Johnson scored 11 points off the bench, and redshirt junior forward Keith Stone had 10 points.
Junior forward Noah Horchler led four UNF scorers in double figures with 16 points, going 8 of 10 from the floor, and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Garrett Sams added 15 points for the Ospreys (2-5).
Junior guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa scored 13 points, and junior guard J.T. Escobar added 11 points for North Florida.
Florida coach Mike White was seeking more toughness and energy from his team coming off a 61-54 loss to Butler on Friday night.
Entering the game tied for last in the SEC in rebounding margin at minus 2.2, the Gators outrebounded the Ospreys 42-25. Florida grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and outscored North Florida 19-3 in second-chance points.
Offensively, Florida (4-3) made a season-high 16 3-pointers, shooting 56.5 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point range.
Ballard scored 12 points and Johnson scored 11 points in the first half, helping the Gators race to a 53-33 halftime lead. Florida shot 59.5 percent from the field and 53.8 percent (7-13) from 3-point range in scoring its most points in a half this season.
With Florida up 14-13 early, Ballard helped spark an 11-0 run with a 17-foot jumper and alley-oop dunk set by Nembhard. Locke followed with a 3-pointer to put Florida up 21-13.
Allen set up Bassett with an inside basket, then Allen scored on a 14-foot jumper to extend Florida’s lead to 25-13.
The Gators maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the half, stretching it to 20 when Johnson made a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half.
—Field Level Media