get complete details of Florida Gators men’s women’s college basketball has a better vibe
from here, checkout more details.
Florida had trouble getting basketballs through stationary hoops in recent years. On Monday night, the Gators were sharp enough to hit a moving target.
In this case, it was Todd Golden.
“We doused him with water after the game,” guard Kyle Lofton said. “It means a lot.”
Kelli Rae Finley didn’t have the same celebratory swim, though it was a historic night for the UF women’s team.
Finley earned her first regular season win as a full-fledged coach. She came in at the front of a rare men’s and women’s doubleheader.
The Gators win the first game:Florida Basketball: Three takeaways from Florida’s season-opening win over Stony Brook
Sasse professional sports:Whitley’s Believe It Or Not: Ben Sasse gets a vote of confidence when it comes to Gators sports
Yes, we interrupt this football season to announce that basketball has arrived. Everyone had a great time at the O’Connell Center.
“It’s just a great atmosphere,” said Leilani Correa. “The fans, oh my God. It’s great to be a part of something.”
If you can’t have a good time against a warm-up opponent, when can you? Then again, no one thought Stetson would beat FSU on Monday night.
There were no such surprises in Gainesville. The UF women beat FAMU 83-55, while the men overwhelmed Stony Brook 81-45.
The two teams have more in common than a nickname. Both are coached by 37-year-old players who believe in building relationships, being positive, and making basketball fun. That last aspect has been in short supply around here in recent years.
Both teams have been picked No. 7 in the SEC. That’s not so much a reflection of UF’s weaknesses as it is of the league’s power.
We didn’t learn much that we didn’t already know on Monday. Florida’s talent isn’t the quality of Kentucky or South Carolina, but there’s plenty to work with.
Golden showed he could do that in San Francisco, leading the Dons to last season’s NCAA tournament. Finley proved it by rescuing the Florida program from falling off a cliff.
She was named interim coach after the Cam Newbauer fiasco. The “interim” was eliminated after a 20-win regular season, and Finley then guided the Gators to their first NCAA tournament in six years.
Nerves of steel for Finley, Golden
So Monday wasn’t exactly an exciting debut for Finley. As for Golden, the nerves never came.
“It was weird because I was waiting for them a little bit,” he said. “But I felt really good about our preparation for the game. We’ve had a very, very good six months building the foundation of the program.”
Those point guards include better 3-point shooting and rebounding than fans are used to. The shootout started 3-for-15, then the Gators went seven of their last 10.
On defense, UF took a 22-3 lead and didn’t really let up. It helped that Colin Castleton appeared as Godzilla whenever a Seawolf got close to the edge.
Castleton and Lofton are the building blocks of UF. Beyond them is a sea of willing, eager, and mostly new faces.
Nine players logged at least 14 minutes against Stony Brook. LSU transfer Alex Fudge, get used to that name, came off the bench to lead the team with 16 points. Depth is good as long as the chemistry is right.
“You really need it when the conference game comes around,” Castleton said. “The most important thing is to have the right mindset about it.”
Consider this season an extended test on team chemistry. Golden said someone might play 25 minutes one night, five the next.
It depends on the opponent and the circumstances. For that to work, it will depend on a chemistry that values the team above oneself.
Walk-ons Klatsky, May score first collegiate points in game opener
That wasn’t a problem during the fun on Monday, especially at the end. The bench erupted when junior Alex Klatsky scored his first career points with a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the game.
“That was the highlight of my night,” Lofton said.
Highlight II came on the next possession, when sophomore Jack May returned an offensive rebound for his first college points.
Passing the first chemistry exam was easy.
“We’ll see how long we can continue with this type of mentality,” Golden said. “I think we can do it, but there will be nights where we only play eight or nine guys. Once we get into that, we’ll learn more about ourselves.”
It’s a long way until March. With so many new players and potential lineups, what you saw on Monday may not necessarily be what you see in January or at the tournament.
But what you saw from both UF teams looked promising. Considering where the shows were not too long ago, it was worth a celebratory shower.
David Whitley is the sports columnist for The Gainesville Sun. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley