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Florida 78, Belmont 61: Gators run hot to blaze Bruins in Tampa

A pair of perfect runs told the story.

NCAA Basketball: Belmont at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida’s men’s basketball team began its Monday meeting with Belmont on a 15-0 run that eventually became a 24-4 run. When Belmont closed the gap to nine points early in the second half, Florida responded with a 16-0 run that put the game out of reach.

What happened between those runs in the Gators’ 78-61 win over the Bruins wasn’t nearly as good, and what came after the second one wasn’t anything special.

But what those runs showed is that Florida’s peak is a dizzying height.

The offense was fine, as long as Canyon Barry had a part in it. Barry led the Gators with 17 points off the bench, pumping in seven of them in that second hot stretch in the second half.

The rest was less exciting, apart from John Egbunu’s 12 points on four shots and eight rebounds. KeVaughn Allen (14) and Devin Robinson (11) combined for 25 points on twin 4-for-9 lines. And Kasey Hill (five points, five assists) and Chris Chiozza (eight points, three steals) did enough in their shared point guard role to make this a relatively easy game, but not quite enough to make it the complete laugher it might have been if Florida’s offense were on par with its defense.

But that defense? Whoa.

Florida harassed Belmont, routinely one of the nation’s most careful offensive teams, into 20 turnovers, 11 of them coming on steals. The Bruins’ three-chasing attack hoisted 27 triples — and made seven. Only Swiss Army forward Evan Bradds (17 points on nine shots) and reserve guard Kevin McClain (10 on 11) cracked double figures for Belmont, which shot just under 40 percent from the floor.

During those runs, Florida didn’t just keep Belmont from making shots — the Gators almost didn’t allow the Bruins to take them. Belmont made its third shot, but that came at the 14:47 mark of the first half. The 16-0 run featured five shots in more than five minutes of play.

If Florida can do that — clamp down on opposing offenses and generate steals that fuel its potent transition and semi-transition offense — all year, Florida’s going to be playing meaningful basketball for many, many more months.