Florida's way better than Alabama State. But the Gators' defense made the gap between the teams yawn wide on Sunday.
Florida's offense looked very good against Nebraska-Kearney in an exhibition game last week. Its defense looked smothering at times in the first half of an abandoned game against Georgetown on Friday night. Billy Donovan's Gators put both together on Sunday for a dominant season-opening win against Alabama State, pulling out to a 47-9 halftime lead and establishing a new record for points allowed by a Florida team in a half in the shot clock era before cruising to an 84-35 victory.
Kenny Boynton was excellent as a scorer and distributor, putting up 22 points, dishing five assists, and committing no turnovers while handling the ball for most of his 22 minutes on the court. And those 22 points came very efficiently, on just 10 shots. Not news: Kenny Boynton is very good against teams as bad as Alabama State is.
Also not news: Erik Murphy's stroke is excellent (he knocked down three threes on his way to 15 points), Patric Young is assertive when fed (12 points, 12 rebounds after being involved in the game early on), and Mike Rosario will slash whenever he damn well pleases (seven free throws attempted).
Florida was also tremendous on defense in the first half, with Boynton and Will Yeguete hounding their men and forcing 14 first-half turnovers. Every starter with the exception of Boynton had a steal, and all but Young and Boynton had two. That led to easy runouts, allowed Young to use his speed to race downcourt and set up for easy buckets, and generally short-circuited the Hornets' offense.
But while pressure is nice, forcing bad shots is the most important thing any team can do on defense, and Florida did that incredibly well on the afternoon, holding Alabama State to 21.4 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent from the three-point line. That's unreal, and especially so for a team that was not very good at defending the three-point line in 2011-12; this effort deserved the record it set, especially since the Gators these Gators topped were the Oh-Fours, who held Southern to 11 points in a half in 2006.
Beyond that? Michael Frazier was 0-for-6 from three after torching the net last week in his first game. Yeguete committed a couple of dumb turnovers early, but bounced back, was aggressive inside, and tied Boynton for the team lead with five assists. Braxton Ogbueze had flashes of excellence in the second half on quick drives to the tin.
Season openers are gimmes for Florida under Billy Donovan, and this one was no different, with Alabama State presenting less of a challenge than most. But at least the Gators of the hardwood crushed the team they were supposed to crush this weekend.