The Miami contest was a heavily defensed venture and not easy on the offensive side of the court. The athletic Hurricanes made shot selection very difficult, but with that the Gators were efficient on the night hitting 46.2% from the field on 24-of-52 shooting while limiting the Hurricanes to 37.7%.
The game saw the emergence of redshirt freshman forward Keith Stone. Stone has played in every contest, has been seeking his shot early and often when in. On Saturday he found it. After starter Justin Leon left with early foul trouble, Stone was inserted and went to work. Before the night was over, he finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, a block, a steal, and an assist. He was 2-for-2 from the three-point line and shot 62.5% from the field.
Florida assistant Dusty May spoke on the IMG Gator Radio Network after the game and was pleased with his freshman big man.
“He was phenomenal and has been like that in practice,” May said of Stone. “He came in a couple of games ago and came in and got an easy basket and kind of got his rhythm. Sometimes when an older player ahead of you is playing well you don’t get those minutes. He’s stayed ready.
“He’s a good player. His time is coming and hopefully he continues to play like this. He can be an X-factor off the bench. He can do so many things on the floor. He’s a talented kid.”
May was the scouting coach for the Miami game and said afterward that there were two main areas of concentration for a game where they had little prep time. Florida wanted to keep scorer Ja’Quan Newton from shooting close to the basket and the wanted to emphasize defensive rebounds. The Gators didn’t get a passing grade in both areas.
“We really focused on two things, with so many things in so few days; you can’t really go extensive with your preparation. You can’t practice certain drills and can’t rep certain things.
“The first was keeping number zero, Newton (15 points on 40% shooting) out of the paint and our bigs did an amazing job of staying in front of him and not giving him any easy baskets. The second thing was defensive rebounding a whole lot better. We are a good offensive rebounding team, but we’ve struggled on the defensive glass. So giving up 16 offensive rebounds we are giving us a 1-for-2 on that. We failed in that area. We battled and fought, it is just something we have to do better at. We have to get five guys pursuing rebounds a lot more than we are right now.
Florida took a 34-30 lead into halftime, but the Hurricanes erased that quickly going on a 9-0 run to start the half and into the first four minutes. From that point they buckled down and held Miami to just 17 points in the final 16 minutes.
“The guys really picked up their communication with each other,” May said after the short stint of bad defense. “You could see them working out some obstacles on the far end. We’re usually pretty good in the first half defensively and in the second half we tail off a little bit. We think because our bench is so active and the guys that aren’t playing are so involved in the game. It really helps in the first half because they’re in front of us.
“In the second half we let down. Tonight we thought the guys on the far end which were the only guys playing, they were involved mentally and talking to each other and really picking up for each other.”
The bench had four players in double digit minutes on Sunday. Led by Stone’s 25, junior guard Chris Chiozza notched 23 minutes and didn’t score but recorded 3 rebounds and 5 assists. Sophomore forward Kevarrius Hayes scored four points including going 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. Senior swing man Canyon Barry saw his fewest minutes of the year totaling 15 and also went scoreless for the first time, but chipped in two rebounds, two blocks, an assist, and a steal. It was a good sign getting a big win without much help from Barry on the offensive end.
“Canyon is such a team guy,” May said. “He just wanted to win and the ball just wasn’t going in and they were keyed on him. Sometimes when you come off the bench they don’t key on you quite as much. I thought tonight, when he came in; they really focused on him and were aware of him at all times.
“They made all of his shots tough and a couple that normally drop for him didn’t, but he continued to play hard and help the team any way he could.”
Senior guard Kasey Hill was the team’s leading scorer with 16. He also added two rebounds, three assists, a steal, and offered up one turnover on the night. Hill finished off the invitational with a couple of nice games punching in 8 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals against #11 Gonzaga on Friday night.
The only other Gator scoring double digits Sunday was junior forward Devin Robinson. Maybe the most consistent player so far this season, Robinson chipped in 10 points and 5 rebounds to go with 3 blocks on the night.
The Gators continue to pile on the blocks. Swatting away 11 balls against the Hurricanes with junior center John Egbunu leading the charge with 4.
UP NEXT: In the last 16 days Florida has played seven games and now have a 6-1 record and a few days off before heading back to Jacksonville on Thursday to play the University of North Florida Ospreys (3-5).