The 37-point loss was good for a $45,000 paycheck from the University of Florida for the cash strapped FAMU athletic department, but there was one other guarantee for FAMU and that is experience which will help the Rattlers in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference where they annually contend for the league championship. FAMU takes its beatings against the teams from the big conferences but Gillespie says that playing against better teams only toughens his Rattlers up for league play.
"There's no one in our league like this (Florida), thank the Lord Jesus," he said, noting that last year's tough out of conference schedule helped to the point that when the Rattlers played Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament, "we had no fear."
While it was a payday game for the Rattlers, for the Gators it was another chance for Billy Donovan to get plenty of minutes for the youngsters on his team. Sophomore forward Mohammed Abukar produced his best game ever as a Gator, pouring in a game and career high 22 points with an 8-10 night from the field that produced four three-pointers in six attempts including three in a row at one point.
Freshman forward Corey Brewer continued his outstanding play at the small forward position with 11 points including two on a spectacular high rise dunk to finish an alley-oop pass from fellow freshman Cornelius Ingram. Sophomore guard Lee Humphrey scored eight points, sophomore forward Chris Richard scored seven, freshman center Al Horford scored six points and tied senior David Lee for rebounding honors with six.
Florida's big three of Lee (eight), Anthony Roberson (13) and Matt Walsh (5) scored well below their average combined output of 45 points per game, but on this night, their scoring was hardly necessary. FAMU opened the game in a triangle (three players in a zone) and two (man to man on two players) defense designed to stop Walsh and Roberson shooting outside and clog the middle to stop Lee. The defensive gimmick worked well enough to slow down Florida's top scorers, but the other players were able to step up their games.
"They were giving us wide open threes, you go into the half and we took 18 threes but we were 9-18 from three and if you're going to shoot 50 percent you have to take them," said Billy Donovan. "With the way they were playing defense you gotta take it. Our guys did a pretty good job of taking advantage of what the defense was giving us."
The Gators put together a 10-0 run in the first half to put some distance (21-8) between the Rattlers on their way to a 47-28 halftime lead. At the start of the second half, the Gators came out hot from the field and intense defensively as they went on a 15-0 run over the first six minutes.
The only real downside for the game was when freshman point guard Taurean Green went down with a sprained ankle. He was taken to the locker room where the ankle was iced down, but Donovan said that his status for Saturday's matchup with Miami at the O'Connell Center is doubtful.
"I'm probably not going to know much until Wednesday morning," said Donovan. "I would say that right now, just based on him not being able to come back and play, it's definitely an ankle sprain, how severe I don't know.
"There's no need to get X-rays or anything else like that, but I would say that for Saturday he's doubtful."
The injury to the quick freshman will alter how the Gators play. Roberson will have to spend more time on the floor and his backups will do the job by committee. Donovan indicated that Matt Walsh and Lee Humphrey will likely step in for some duty at the point.
In the final minutes of the game, Donovan experimented with Ingram at point and while there were some shaky moments due to inexperience, there were enough positives that the freshman from Hawthorne will probably figure in future plans as a backup at that position.
"I threw him in a bad situation tonight," said Donovan. "First time in his entire time with us that he's played the point. He's probably still trying to figure things out, but he did a pretty good job and he may be a guy I can utilize on Saturday if Taurean is out.
"It's not really what I want to do. I'd really like to keep him at one spot and let him play there, but I'm not going to be able to do that because I have to have some kind of backup. Matt Walsh is such a good scorer and Lee Humphrey is such a good shooter that you start putting those guys at the point and it takes away from what they do well. Cornelius may be a guy that over the next couple of days will have to work on that point guard spot to try to provide some things for our team."
Gillespie was impressed with what he saw of the Gators, rating them on par with Michigan State and Illinois, both of whom beat the Rattlers last week.
"Florida is every bit as good as Illinois and Michigan State," said Gillespie. "This is one of the best teams in the country. This team has a chance to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament."