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Florida 73, Marshall 67: Gators survive Herd’s challenge with second-half rally

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Florida once again proved capable of compensating for a slow start. But the Gators also couldn’t cruise in this game.

Florida Gators

The Florida Gators ought to be accustomed to playing games that turn into tales of two halves by now in this 2019-20 season.

They love that script so much they practically tried to extend it to both the game and the second half in a closer-than-it-should’ve-been 73-67 win over Marshall on Friday.

The first half? It was bad, at least for Florida. The Gators didn’t make a single three or record a single assist, and found scoring difficult without Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Keyontae Johnson, who both got their minutes limited by foul trouble. If not for Ques Glover splashing in eight of his team-high 14 points before halftime, the Thundering Herd’s margin at the break might have been much larger than 33-25.

But Florida went about erasing that deficit with haste in the second half, putting together an 8-0 run out of the gate and then taking the lead for good with an extended 24-11 stretch. Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson, and Tre Mann all hit threes, Scottie Lewis — whose seven-point, seven-rebound, four-steal, three-block line does not even fully capture the impact of his play — revved up his engines, and Blackshear and Johnson steadied the Gators by contributing a fair few of their 23 combined points.

Yet the Gators found a way to fit a swoon into the second half, too, with their 69-58 lead with mere minutes left evaporating before their eyes. Some of that had to to with a questionable foul-and-technical combo on Blackshear for pursuing a loose ball that ended with his disqualification, but Marshall also hit a three and got an and-one in the final minute of play.

Only Andrew Nembhard — uneven at best on the night, with eight points and all four of Florida’s assists but three of the Gators’ 14 turnovers — making a midrange jumper prevented Marshall from having a possession with a change to tie with a field goal alone. And only a couple of misses allowed the Gators to exhale.

If this team doesn’t apply itself enough to need to suck wind at practice between now and their trip to Butler next Saturday, though, they may be sucking their teeth after letting their short win streak end.