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Florida 86, Stetson 40: Gators dominate Hatters with suffocating defense

Florida put the clamps on and never really took them off.


Despite baskets on the game’s first three possessions, the Florida Gators led the Stetson Hatters 4-3 after the first four minutes of play on a sleepy Sunday in Gainesville, both teams starting out cold from the field.

Then the Gators deposited the Hatters on a glacier and took off, dominating for most of the final 36 minutes en route to an 86-40 win in their home opener.

Keyontae Johnson had 19 points, Noah Locke splashed in 15 points on five threes, and Scottie Lewis had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists in the Gators’ walkover win — but the story was their defense. Florida held the Hatters to just three makes on 26 field goals in the first half, and to just 10 points until 5:11 remained in the period.

Stetson wouldn’t get to 20 points until 13:15 remained in the second half, to 30 until just after the eight-minute mark, or to 40 until the game’s final scoring play, a free throw. In all, the Hatters made just 10 baskets and shot a horrific 21 percent from the field, getting 16 points from the free throw line, 12 from beyond the arc, and 12 on two-pointers.

The Hatters’ 40 points were the fewest Florida has allowed in a regular-season contest under Mike White, and fewest the program has conceded overall since giving up just 34 to Jacksonville in November 2014.

On offense, meanwhile, Florida capitalized on 23 Stetson turnovers — four of which went down as steals for Tyree Appleby — to fuel its offense for long stretches, then found success late in feeding Locke, who hit four of his threes after intermission.

12 of the 13 scholarship players on Florida’s roster both played and scored, and the exception — big Jason Jitoboh — played only sparingly.

The win over Stetson is Florida’s largest since the second game of the Mike White era, a 104-54 smithereening of a North Carolina A&T outfit that would finish No. 339 in KenPom that season. And while Stetson is bad, and fell to 0-3 with the loss, it should not be that bad.

For Florida, then, this was the kind of dominant win that should instill hope as the Gators gear up to face daunting Florida State next Saturday.