GAINESVILLE -- No. 10 Florida dispatched North Florida 77-69 on Saturday afternoon in the O’Connell Center to kickoff its 2013-14 campaign.
The Gators -- down three suspended upperclassmen (Dorian-Finney Smith, Scottie Wilbekin, Damontre Harris) and playing with several hobbled players (Eli Carter, Will Yeguete, Michael Frazier II) -- hardly resembled a top 10 team, but nonetheless, the shorthanded bunch started the year with an ugly win.
Foul Fest, engage. During the offseason, the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee instituted several rule changes -- no more hand-checks and a reevaluation of the block-charge call -- in an effort to maximize scoring and cut down the meat-grinder-like contests. Good try again, NCAA. The new rules had an instant but hardly positive impact. The two teams combined for 36 fouls, as Florida’s first win of 2013 was marred by whistles, poor defense and a total lack of flow.
Florida shot 19 free throws in the first half -- making 17 straight to open the game, second all-time in school history -- on 13 UNF fouls. The Gators didn’t escape foul trouble either, as freshman point guard Kasey Hill (7 minutes) and senior center Patric Young (8 minutes) mostly sat the bench in the first half. With no true second point guard available (Wilbekin suspension), UF’s offense struggled for much of the first half without Hill’s playmaking presence. The Gators blew a 19-point lead, as UNF actually ended the period on a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to six (37-31). The Gators settled down after halftime, toying with the Ospreys’ leaky zone (UF shot 51 percent), but an inability to get consistent stops, rebounds or defend basic inbounds plays resulted in “a disappointing” and too-close-for-comfort victory.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Senior Casey Prather had a career-night, scoring 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The senior forward chipped in eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal too. Prather doubled his previous career-high (14 points) from the Virginia game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. While UF’s other post players struggled (Young and Yegutete combined for four points, seven rebounds and five fouls), Prather relentlessly and aggressively attacked the rim. He scored 17 points in the first half on six made field goals (6-of-9), while the rest of UF’s team combined to shoot 4-for-18.
STAT OF INTEREST
Hill, in his collegiate debut, flashed his finishing prowess in the second half, scoring 13 points (15 for the game) on several athletic layups and contested jumpers. The O’Dome -- quiet most of the afternoon -- was rocking on the freshman’s spin-cycle finish midway through the second half.
STAT OF INTEREST PART DEUX
UF didn’t make a field goal outside the paint until Hill’s 15-foot jump shot with 17:01 remaining in the second half. Eli Carter’s 3-pointer (11:32 in the second half) was UF’s first trey of the season. For the game, the Gators shot a measly 20 percent (2-of-10) from behind the arc.
STAT OF INTEREST PART III
Florida tallied 13 offensive rebounds resulting in 12 second-chance points, but Florida was actually outrebounded for the game: 37-35.
“We didn’t play as good as we should’ve played. Tomorrow’s practice will be hard.”
QUOTABLE PART DEUX
“We are light years away from being even a remotely good defensive team right now. And light years away from being a ranked team.”
The Gators (1-0) travel to Madison to play No. 20 Wisconsin on Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. (ESPN2).
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton