EditorsNote: Updates: 1. minor edits throughout
Kerry Blackshear Jr. made his Florida debut a memorable one, scoring a game-high 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the new-look No. 6 Gators to a 74-59 victory over North Florida on Tuesday night in Gainesville.
Blackshear, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, added three assists and two steals. He finished 8 of 11 from the floor.
The Gators (1-0) wasted no time introducing their freshmen, playing five of them. Tre Mann, the only freshman to start, scored 11 points. Scottie Lewis had nine points and Omar Payne six to go with five boards. Sophomore Noah Locke scored 14 points.
J.T. Escobar led the Ospreys (0-1) with 15 points, and Garrett Sams scored 14.
The Gators, who led by 17 at halftime, added to the margin early in the second half, scoring easy buckets for a quick 6-0 run in the first 1:15. Blackshear’s layup opened the scoring, and Mann and Locket followed with floaters in transition to force the Ospreys into an early timeout trailing 45-22.
The Gators led 39-22 at halftime behind Blackshear’s 11 points and seven each from Mann and Noah Locke. The Gators missed their first eight shots and connected on just 37.1 percent from the floor before the break.
The Gators harassed the Ospreys into 11 first-half turnovers and 4-of-19 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
The Ospreys played the Gators close for the first 7 1/2 minutes, trailing just 12-10 after Josh Endicott’s layup with 12:35 left in the half. But Payne helped to ignite a 16-0 run that extended the Gators’ lead to 28-10 with 5:18 remaining.
Payne scored six points and grabbed four boards off the bench during the spurt. The 6-foot-10 forward factored in three straight scoring possessions during the stretch, feeding Lewis for a layup, hitting a short jumper and converting two free throws.
The Gators next await a visit from Florida State on Sunday. The Ospreys play host to Florida National, an NAIA school, on Thursday.
—Field Level Media