If Florida can play every game under Todd Golden like it did its first, Gator Nation is going to be very happy with its new men’s basketball coach.
Sure, the Gators, winners by a record-settling 81-45 count over Stony Brook on Monday would have probably liked to make more threes than they did while the game was still competitive — two makes from VMI transfer Trey Bonham and walk-on Alex Klatsky from distance in the final two minutes turned a respectable 8-for-23 night from deep into a better-on-paper-than-it-was-in-real-time 10-for-25 performance. Colin Castleton would probably rather not go 1-for-4 from the line, either, and Kowacie Reeves can’t have been thrilled to have more fouls (four) than made baskets (three).
But other than that? The Gators did very little to complain about in dominating a team decimated by preseason injuries.
Florida’s runs to begin both halves — 22-3 to begin, then 22-5 over the first 11 minutes of the second half — put the game well out of reach for the Seawolves, whose limited rotation forced six players to get 26 or more minutes. (Only Castleton played that many for the Gators, and just two other players got more than 20.)
And apart from Reeves, who needed seven shots to get his eight points, and Castleton, who scored 13 points on 12 shots, Florida filled the stat sheet efficiently. Transfers Alex Fudge and Will Richard led the way, with 16 and 14 points on 12 and five (!) shots respectively, and each flashed athleticism on defense that helps make the Gators’ potential on that end enticing.
Castleton, Myreon Jones, and Trey Bonham each had at least three assists — Bonham, whose only points came on that late three, had four to lead Florida — while seven Gators had at least three rebounds.
And a defense that had Stony Brook chucking threes early and often ended up holding the Seawolves to pitiful 31 percent from the floor and 21 percent from three percentages, forcing 18 turnovers along the way.
So, without a vintage night from any one player — spare maybe Fudge, whose 16 points were a career-high after being mostly relegated to reserve duty while at LSU — the Gators rolled a team that they should have rolled for the best debut for any coach in program history, pipping a 34-point win over Jacksonville by the late Tommy Bartlett’s first group of Gators in 1966.
That team ended up going 21-4, with Neal Walk emerging as the future No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft that he would turn out to be.
If these Gators want to follow in those footsteps, it’ll be fine by everyone.