If you happen to be living under a rock and did not know it, the Gators started their NCAA tournament run last night with a 112-69 victory over 16 seed Jackson State.
Here are a few things to take away from last night's contest:
- Jackson State came out trying to keep the game at a very fast tempo, create turnovers and try to outrun the Gators when they had the ball on offense. This strategy worked for a short while in the first half when the Gators were ice cold from the field and turning the ball over at a frequent pace (UF had 10 turnovers in the first half). Once the second half began with us seeing the Gators starting to hit their shots and playing better interior defense the game fell apart for the Tigers.
Really, speeding the game up and forcing turnovers was the only chance Jackson State had to win this game. They were successful in upping the tempo, as this game was played at the highest pace all season for the Gators at 75. It would have also taken a bad shooting night from the Gators to lose this game, so the 59% performance from the field just did not give the Tigers a chance in this one.
- Looking at the initial stats coming into this game, it looked as if the Gators should dominate on the glass -- and they sure did, outrebounding the Tigers 62-19 (ESPN had a different number up last night), including 24 offensive boards. The great offensive rebounding performance led to the Gators scoring 30 second chance points in this game.
The Gators also dominated with their scoring inside, as they held a 62-34 advantage in the points in the paint category. Really these were things that should have happened last night, and they did -- so we should be very satisfied with the way the Gators capitalized on their strengths.
- Lee Humphrey started out beyond cold in the first half, missing threes and becoming a non-factor early. What was worrisome about this was the streak Humphrey went on during the losing skid that saw him go pretty cold from beyond the arc -- something that can't happen if the Gators want to repeat. Luckily he came out firing in the second frame, hitting his first four shots and showing us that he was ready to play in this tournament.
- Chris Richard and Marreese Speights deserve a ton of credit for their performances last night. Richard, who is usually the first man off the bench, came in at provided an early spark to a somewhat sleepwalking offense. At a certain point in the first half he was carrying the scoring load solely on his back as no one else could hit any shots. Overall he was 8-9 from the floor with 17 points and six rebounds for the Gators.
Speights showed us last night what he is capable of as an inside presence. He grabbed six boards, all on the offensive side, and translated them into 16 points. He didn't look like a freshman playing in his first tournament game last night -- he looked like a seasoned veteran (I know, I know it was against Jackson State, but you know what I mean).
- The Tigers' Trey Johnson came in pretty highly praised for his scoring prowess. The Gators main goal on defense was to not let this guy get too hot from the floor, and it seemed like they accomplished that goal.
Johnson went 8-21 for 25 points in the game -- nothing too shabby -- but was dead cold from the floor in the first half and didn't score most of his points until later in the second half when the game was out of reach. He's an explosive player, very talented, but the Gators did a good job of keeping an eye on him last night.
The Gators will take on Purdue tomorrow at 2:15 in the same location, as the Boilermakers were able to take down Arizona last night. This, obviously, will be a much tougher matchup for the Gators and will need to be aware that it will take a better overall performance to put up points on a pretty solid defensive squad.