Any hopes that the Florida Gators would run away and hide from the North Florida Ospreys in their season opener on Tuesday night were diminished by the early goings of a game that started with Florida missing its first eight shots.
And yet the Gators buckled down and built leads that stretched past 20 points — which makes Florida’s ultimate result, a 74-59 win over a pesky outfit, maybe both more and less satisfying than it could have been.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. led the Gators on this night, performing as well as could be wished for in his regular-season debut for Florida: His 20 points and 10 rebounds both led all players, and he scored Florida’s first point, basket, and three in the game.
And his steady production helped out a lot on a night when fellow preseason All-SEC pick Andrew Nembhard scored just four points on 2-of-8 shooting. Florida got a combined 34 points from Noah Locke (14 points), Tre Mann (11 points), and Scottie Lewis (nine points), but the Gators shot just 42 percent from the field and made only three of 15 threes, with Locke (two) and Blackshear (one) combining for all of their triples.
North Florida would never truly go away, thanks partly to 11 threes; the Ospreys trailed by more than 20 points at multiple junctures, but answered a 21-point deficit late in the second half with a 6-0 run.
But Florida’s lead also never slipped under 13 points in the second half — a sign that this game was more in control than the Ospreys’ rain of treys sometimes made it seem.
Florida’s schedule immediately gets harder, with Florida State coming to Gainesville on Sunday with its longest winning streak in the rivalry. And the Gators will probably have to be better than they were on this night to win that game.
But they couldn’t win their second game on this night, just the first. In doing just that, they left plenty to like, and still more to improve upon before the brunt of their non-conference schedule.