Florida Gators' offense bounces back in win

After a sloppy win at Navy on Friday, Florida’s offense looked much better in the home opener.

The film from Friday's season opener showed some simple tweaks that would help the Gators to improve offensively. The simplest fix didn’t take a lot of research or in-depth scouting from the Florida staff. It was as straightforward as first-year coach Mike White could possibly make it.

Make three-pointers.

The Gators went 3-19 from behind the three-point line in the win at Navy. On Monday night in the home opener, Florida went 15-29 from behind the three-point line in a 104-54 pounding of North Carolina A&T.

Eight different Florida players hit at least one three-pointer while five of them hit multiple shots from long range.

“It was a similar effort (to the Navy win), but we just happened to make threes,” Florida coach Mike White said. “There were some we didn’t take advantage of at Navy and that’s the big difference. Four or five of them go down for you, and it has an effect on your overall confidence level as a team.

“The more spread out that we are with the defense, the wider the driving lanes for our playmakers, point guards and step-out fours. It just makes the game a lot more fun and a lot easier for you offensively when the ball is dropping and you’re shooting it well from three.”

The Gators went over 100 points in a game for the first time since 2011 and had six players in double figures for the first time since December 12, 2014. Ball movement was also improved for Florida, and point guards Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill helped set the offense up in better spots than on Friday. The duo combined for 13 assists and three turnovers while helping the Gators to their 25th straight win in the home opener.

The team had 20 assists, looking for the extra pass and creating open shots to end possessions. 

“Everybody is sharing the ball more,” said Brandone Francis-Ramirez, who had 10 points in 18 minutes. “I don’t think anybody has their own agenda. We’re playing unselfish basketball, and it’s showing up on the court. We’re trying to get the best shot on every possession.”

Also on display was Florida’s depth. The Gators used 13 players -- including three walk ons that played two minutes or less -- but White was constantly rotating through his stable of 10 players during the game. The blowout score gave him a chance to rotate and toy with new lineups.

Even in the first half, White brought Chris Chiozza (11 points, five assists, four rebounds), Francis-Ramirez and Devin Robinson (15 points, seven rebounds) off the bench. The second unit provides plenty of scoring that the Gators haven’t had in recent years. Florida’s bench scored 50 points on the night, just four less than the entire North Carolina A&T team.  

“We’re a deep team,” said Dorian Finney-Smith, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. “I think those guys could start at any other university, and they’re coming off the bench. They come in with a lot of energy. Hopefully they can keep the same energy they have because when they came in, it just went to a different level.”

Florida’s next game comes against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at 2:30 in Uncasville, Conn.

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