Florida coach Mike White saw an opportunity for his team on Tuesday. If they could comfortably win the rebounding margin, they should be fine against a Richmond team that came into the game 28th nationally in points per game.
The Gators did that, outrebounding the Spiders 57-36 and cruising to a 76-56 win.
“I haven’t been a part of a team like this that’s as talented on the offensive glass and defensive glass like we are,” White said. “We showed signs of that tonight. We’ve gotten better at blocking out, putting bodies on bodies and using our length. Our guards complain that our bigs steal rebounds from them. That’s a good problem to have.”
The Gators had three players with double-digit rebounds. Center John Egbunu led the way with 14 while forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Devin Robinson each had 13. It was the first time Florida had a trio with 10 or more rebounds since Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah did it against Jacksonville in 2005. It was the third time in the last 20 seasons that a major conference team had three players with 13+ rebounds.
For White, it’s a mentality. The staff was stunned in the offseason to see what little impact Robinson had on the glass last year as a freshman, and they challenged him to improve his effort in collecting rebounds. His energy is easy to see while going to the rim. The addition of Egbunu, who sat out last year because of NCAA transfer rules, has also helped.
“It’s just our job,” White said. “Any team that watches us on film knows we send 3-5 to the glass. When you get blocked out or get an elbow in your hip or 245 pounds of muscle hits you as you sprint to the rim because your coach is telling you to get to the offensive glass, it’s dirty work. It’s fighting for your team to get an extra possession. Our guys have really embraced that.”
The number of rebounds that were available for Florida came because of its defense, forcing Richmond to shoot 33.9 percent from the field.
Tuesday was the best game Florida has played this season. There were times this year, especially in the last two games, where they needed a strong second half to blow the opponent out. That flipped against Richmond, as Florida opened the game on an 8-0 run and took a 40-17 lead into halftime.
The frontcourt didn’t only provide rebounds. Egbunu, Finney-Smith and Robinson combined for 39 of the team’s 76 points. Egbunu and Finney-Smith have carried the Gators in recent games, and it was the case at times on Tuesday when Robinson left the court after an ankle injury. He would later return, but the Egbunu and Finney-Smith combination has been tough for opponents to stop this year.
“Dorian is a mismatch,” Robinson said. “He’s technically a guard playing the four. They have bigger, slower guys trying to guard him. They can’t handle him. He picks and pops. John is strong as an ox. Not many guys are going to out-power him. That one-two punch makes it hard for teams to defend, and they focus on those two, and it opens up everybody else to flourish.”
Egbunu added, “It’s the fact that he’s a really good shooter and teams have to roll and replace on ball screens. They have to pick their poison. Either go take away (Finney-Smith’s) shot, or leave me open for the duck in. I feel like it’s really good. We feed off each other, and it’s helping the team.”