Florida defeated Jackson State 99-59 to begin the 2011-12 men's basketball season on Friday night. While we might not look back on Florida basketball games like we do on football games, I'll be using the Rapid Recap format for these recaps, too.
Florida's first win of the 2011-12 men's basketball season was an easy one, and the sort of blowout that whets Gators fans' appetites for the first real test of the year. That comes Tuesday, when Florida heads to Columbus for a primetime showdown with Ohio State. And while I think the Gators can pull the upset, I'm not thinking they will after watching them take apart Jackson State.
How Florida Won
A brief aside that has nothing to do with the game: Florida's student ticketing planning was apparently so bad on this night that there was a line of easily 250 students stretching past the entrance to the parking lot between the O'Dome and MacKethan five minutes before tip-off. That's not going to convince a lot of the students who are typically wishy-washy on watching Florida games to keep coming out, especially considering a lot of those kids were waiting in the cold.
Oh, and it was 17-3 when I got to my seat, so I'm going to say Florida had the game won before I saw even one second of action.
I am approaching Mike Rosario as a less defensive-minded Kenny Boynton until further notice, thanks to their uncanny statistical similarities to this point. But I can't hate on 19 points on 12 shots and five threes on eight attempts, especially not in 20 minutes. That's some fantastic efficiency.
Boynton, too, was really good, making four of seven threes and committing no fouls while playing his very good brand of defense. He nearly biffed a dunk on a fast break, because he's neither as tall nor as athletic as he thinks/we wish he was, but that's not a huge problem.
Florida's composite score at the half in two games so far this year, one an exhibition against a Division III team and both at home: 129-49. Even with the caveats, I love it.
Boynton faked a pass on an inbounds play to get Young a few more inches of breathing room, then whipped him a pass for an easy dunk. Kenny Boynton: Savvy basketball player!
Erving Walker is going to have to take fewer shots to keep Florida's three excellent shooting guards happy. Tonight, he had as many rebounds as made field goals (four), and though he only had four assists, he didn't force anything as either a shooter or a distributor. If he wants to be more like Chris Paul (and, as I'm writing for next week, he does), that's sort of the blueprint he needs to follow.
Florida has yet to figure out how it's going to run Billy Donovan's ball screen-heavy offense. I don't love Erik Murphy as the big man doing it, and I can't imagine that there's anyone else who can step into Chandler Parsons' triple-threat role as slasher/shooter/passer. But all of this is good because it has forced the Gators to be patient, and they have been; there was a great passing sequence tonight that set up a three just like great passing set up a Brad Beal three last week, and if Florida's many smaller players can figure out how to make things happen with inside-out passing, well, Donovan has a few more options.
Young had one tremendous sequence midway through the first half: After allowing a second chance bucket, he scored on an alley-oop that was all about his awareness, took a charge, and scored on a tip-in on the next three possessions. And then, a couple of possessions later, he grabbed a good, awkward defensive rebound and then made a smart hustle play to snag a loose ball and slam it home on consecutive possessions. He's still a long way from his peak, but he recorded his first double-double in addition to those flashes of greatness, and I'll be in Pat's corner as long as is necessary.
Florida's second unit (which is going to get a nickname, surely) of Scottie Wilbekin, Rosario, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Cody Larson has some issues, but is going to be a ton of fun to watch on defense. Wilbekin, Prather, and Yeguete fly around and can put together a devastating press if Rosario helps, and Prather and Yeguete have a weird Bash Brothers-esque chemistry that I really, really enjoy.
It turns out that Beal is not a flawless basketball player who will carry Florida to an undefeated season. He made one of his six threes, had a weird turnover late when he passed out of a three to Young's back, and was not as effortlessly dominant as he was against Catholic. The good news: He still scored 14 points and put up numbers in every statistical category, and his shot still deserves an oil painting. He'll be fine, but this game will help Donovan remind him that he can have off nights, too.
Murphy made one of four threes. Here's a hint, Murph: If you're struggling from three, there are like five other guys who are better at shooting them than you are, and you might consider passing to them.
Florida's white-hot three-point shooting from its exhibition decimation of Catholic cooled just slightly (the Gators made 13 of 30 threes, a 43.3% clip), but the Gators were well outpaced by Jackson State, which made nine of 13 threes (69.3%!). If a middle-of-the-road SWAC team can do that against Florida, Ohio State may be able to both beat the Gators inside with Jared Sullinger as expected and rain treys from downtown. That's the recipe for a double-digit road loss.
Miniature rant: I am really liberal when it comes to fan behavior, my hatred of The Wave excepted, and I think virtually anything short of being ridiculously abusive of players or referees or criminal conduct (fighting, etc.) in the stands is a valid way of cheering on your team. But if you're going to Gator Chomp for Florida's free throws, MAKE SURE THE PLAYER MAKES THE FREE THROW FIRST. Nothing gets on my nerves quite like that.
Stats and Miscellany Dump
The Dazzlers performed to "Another One Bites the Dust" at halftime. And yes, I will be keeping track of their song choices from this point forward. ... Walter Pitchford got a weirdly loud ovation when he entered the game late in the second half. ... I'll upload my pic to give you a better view of it in the morning, but the O'Dome court, changed for this season, looks really, really different. It'll take time to get used to it.