With his players huddled around him minutes before the tipoff that would usher in the newly renovated Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Florida men's basketball coach Mike White gave his team a quick message.
"Let's have fun. Let's battle. Let's get a little better," the coach said.
By the look at their performance against Arkansas-Little Rock, it seems the Gators took the speech to heart.
Behind five players with double-digit scoring, a first career double-double from senior point guard Kasey Hill and newfound success from three-point range, the Gators defeated the Trojans 94-71 on Wednesday in front of an announced crowd of 10,655.
It was a long road leading up to Wednesday's home debut.
The Gators (9-3) spent 11 games on the road to start the season. They traveled nearly 2,600 miles, spanning the state of Florida and making a trip to New York City in the middle.
"It's been crazy, but it definitely brought us together," Hill said in a post-game interview on the SEC Network. "... It helped us a lot. Playing on the road is tough, and we finally got a chance to play here in front of our fans."
On Wednesday, there was no traveling. For the first time since March 1, the Florida Gators men's basketball team played at home. For the first time this season, they had the Rowdy Reptile student section in their corner.
And in return, they put out their best offensive performance of the season right before beginning Southeastern Conference play.
Florida shot 59.6 percent from the field (34 for 57) and made a season-high 16 three-pointers, two shy of the school record set back in 1996.
Junior forward Devin Robinson paced Florida with a career-high 21 points and tacked on seven rebounds. Sophomore shooting guard KeVaughn Allen added 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting (3-of-5 from three-point range) while also recording five rebounds and three assists. Graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry (15 points), sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes (12 points, eight rebounds),and Hill (11 points, 11 assists) also ended the game with double-digit points.
Florida went into halftime with a 56-27 lead, making 14 of its final 18 shots before the break. The team made 22 of its 32 shots from the field, a 68.8-percent shooting efficiency that stands as the Gators' best first-half performance of the year. Allen, Robinson and Hill combined to score 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting, including an 8-of-11 mark from three-point range.
UF extended its lead to as much as 35 midway into the second half before Arkansas-Little Rock (9-4) began to close the gap. The Trojans outscored Florida 29-17 in the final 13 minutes of the game. Lis Shoshi led Arkansas-Little Rock with 19 points and was one of three UALR players with at least 10 points.
"When you make shots, you can't change your identity," White said in a post-game interview on the SEC Network. "You can't get out of a stance and feel better about yourself. It wasn't our best defensive performance and somehow, you have to find your best offensive performance and your best defensive performance and find that for 30 [minutes] and then find it for 35 and at some point we've got to do it for 40."
Florida will have the rest of the week off before opening SEC play on the road against Arkansas on Dec. 29. After that, the Gators will play three of its next four games at home.