Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators survive Army’s strong shooting in 2020-21 season opener

By Adam Silverstein
December 2, 2020
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators survive Army’s strong shooting in 2020-21 season opener
Basketball

Image Credit: @GatorsMBK / Twitter

The troops brought it to Florida Gators basketball on Wednesday in the program’s season opener, but Florida was eventually to overcome the Army West Point Black Knights 76-69. Played inside Bubbleville at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, the Gators took the game on short notice and looked rusty going up against a surprisingly formidable opponent.

Florida (1-0) overcame a tremendous shooting effort from Army West Point (3-1), but that does not excuse how massively the Gators struggled in the first half game. UF had five turnovers in the first 5 minutes and looked completely lost, though it did manage to gel in the second half.

What went down on Wednesday in the Gators’ season opener? Keep on reading for our Fastbreak takeaways from the game.

It was over when … Florida made 9 of 10 free throws over the final 2:23 to pull out a victory. The Gators trailed 69-67 with less than 3 minutes to play but were able to clamp down defensively and manufacture points in the double bonus. Sophomore point guard Tre Mann, who finished with a career-high 19 points, went 5 of 6 from the line as teammates sophomore G Scottie Lewis and junior G Tyree Appleby each netted a pair of freebies.

Army started the game an astounding 10 of 21 from three-point range but missed their final three triples in the waning minutes. The Black Knights also committed a pair of critical turnovers that led to additional possessions for UF down the stretch. Florida ended the game on a 9-0 run despite not making a field goal the final 3:14 and going through a separate 5:42 basket-less drought in the middle of the half.

The Gators did not take their first lead of the game until there was 15:16 left. They only earned that thanks to a 16-3 run to open the second half. Army erased that lead with an 8-1 run of its own, forcing UF to play hard until the final buzzer.

First half focus: Florida trailed 12-2 right out of the gate with four turnovers and one make on five shots in its first nine possessions. In fact, the Gators had five turnovers in as many minutes and trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, starting 0 of 4 from downtown. UF used an 8-0 run to cut its deficit but never got inside four points as Army started 6 of 12 from three and took an eight-point lead into the break.

Exceptional efforts: Mann did it all for Florida, going 6 of 13 from the field with four assists, six rebounds and five steals, though he did he four turnovers. The Gators do not win this game without his defensive effort creating numerous additional possessions. Also key to the victory was Appleby, who posted 15 points on 4 of 6 shooting, made 6 of 7 free throws and had three dimes.

Odds and ends: Junior forward Keyontae Johnson, UF’s best player, impressed with 16 points but committed five turnovers and was in constant foul trouble with four in the game … junior center Colin Castleton got the start in the first game of his Florida career and impressed with nine points and eight boards … the Gators were just 4 of 15 from three (.267) … Army matched Florida on the interior and shared the ball better with assists on 62.5% of its baskets (vs. 41.7%) … the Gators only led for 11:38 of the minute game, all in the second half … Florida improved to 2-0 all-time against Army, 6-1 against service academies and 9-1 against Patriot League teams all-time … the Gators are now 89-20 whens coring 70+ points and 94-37 (.718) against unranked opponents

Jake Winderman’s analysis: It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. Mann looked like a completely different player from his freshman self, and it wasn’t just because of his added height and weight. Florida will have to figure out their frontcourt rotation, but Castleton proved to be extremely valuable on the offensive glass. The Gators’ backcourt play was encouraging when Mann and Appleby were together on the court. The two looked comfortable side-by-side. Florida’s best offense came with Mann at the 2 and Appleby at the 1.

What it means: Not much. Perhaps Florida was rusty. After all, it has not practiced as a complete team once all offseason. Perhaps the Gators are still feeling out their new pieces and learning how to work together. Perhaps UF is not that good. Perhaps Army’s ability to shoot the lights out from beyond the arc — or Florida’s difficulty defending the three-point line — drastically changed the game plan. More will be learned from the Gators in their next game, but at least this opener is out of their systems.

What’s next? Florida remains in Bubbleville for one more day. It will face Boston College on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET in its first game agains ta major conference opponent this season.

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