Florida breezed to a 91-55 win over North Florida on Thursday night. I was there; here's my Rapid Recap of the game.
Florida's 2011-12 season is going to be long, and will feature more adversity than a game at home against an average North Florida team less than 48 hours after a loss to Ohio State. But the Gators passed last night's test, playing the sort of defense that will help them compete in the SEC and the NCAA Tournament.
How Florida Won
North Florida made the first shot of the game, then gave up a 23-7 run that had a 15-2 run within it. This one was over rather early, thanks to Florida's opportunistic defense and Kenny Boynton's scoring; Boynton had 14 points in the first half.
Bradley Beal may not have scored the most points in this game, but he was, as may become customary, Florida's best player. He recorded the first double-double of his collegiate career, pulling down 10 rebounds to go with his 12 points, and committed no turnovers a game after leading Florida with five. He took a defender baseline for a first-half dunk that really surprised me. His defense was also really good, despite usually being matched up on larger players thanks in part to Will Yeguete being out. Beal's touch was a bit off on the night, but his one three was cold-blooded: An Ospreys defender gave him about six inches too much space, and Beal took a quick dribble and swished the three. I yelled "You idiot!" at the defender while Beal was in mid-air. I like being confident enough in a Florida player's talents to do that.
Boynton was also excellent, though more as a slasher than a shooter, and he led all players with 20 points. He made two of eight threes, and probably should not have taken that many, but he managed to find seams and slip through them for jumpers and floaters that haven't always been there in his game. Florida desperately needs some balance on the perimeter, because there's been no go-to penetrator and scorer so far; Boynton's the logical candidate for that role.
Florida's defense played very well, limiting the Ospreys to 34.5% shooting from the field and 14.3% shooting from three-point range. And yet probably five or six of the baskets North Florida got were just weird defensive lapses, especially underneath. The Ospreys committed 21 turnovers, and Florida had 12 steals, with no one getting more than Scottie Wilbekin's four.
Mike Rosario continues to shoot well. He made four of his six threes.
Patric Young didn't look discouraged at all, despite a night that saw him fall short of 10 points and 10 rebounds for the first time this season. That's part of what makes him my favorite Gator; the alley-oop from Erving Walker that he threw down was another reason to love him. (Via Only Gators.)
Erving Walker rebounded from a fairly bad first half to play far better in the second half. Though I'm not fully convinced that he's committed to being a pass-first point guard, and there's no reason he should be taking 12 shots a night, Walker was, at least, not fully on tilt after one of the worst nights of his career against Ohio State.
Remember when Florida hit just 13 of 21 free throws against Ohio State and it was awful? The Gators missed more and shot worse from the charity stripe against North Florida, making just 16 of 29 free throws. The only players who hit over 50% of their free throws on the night were Boynton and Walker; Beal missed two of three, Cody Larson missed both of his, and Casey Prather — who, while I'm thinking about Casey Prather, needs to quit trying to create off the dribble or pick his spots far more carefully — missed three of four shots. That spotty foul line work is going to matter far less against North Florida than against Syracuse, or Arizona, or Florida State, and needs to be cleaned up soon.
Young needs to be utilized more. He scored on two of Florida's first three possessions last night, then didn't have another field goal until the alley-oop from Walker early in the second half. That's not good use of a guy who is developing touch around the basket (and, fairly, Young needs to do a better job of getting the ball low and attacking the rim), and I would be surprised to see Young get just seven shots in a game again this year. He's too good to ignore, and his inside presence is too important to the Florida offense as a counterpoint to the perimeter shooting for him to be neglected.
I got nothing! That's new.
Stats and Miscellany Dump
The Dazzlers' halftime song choice: "Pour Some Sugar On Me." ... At one point near the end of the game, two of the five North Florida players on the court had air-balled misses. This made the Rowdy Reptiles happy. ... My favorite moment: Young picking Walker up — literally grabbing him from the floor and lifting him in the air — midway through the second half. ... Florida inserted a four-guard lineup (Walker, Boynton, Rosario, Beal, Larson) in the first half with 6:16 to play; in its brief 1:21 of work, it outscored North Florida 5-2.