It took 11 games, but the Florida Gators men’s basketball team is finally playing at home again. The Gators stepped up in the first home game of 2016-17.
2016 has been one of the most trying years in recent memory for the Florida Gators athletic department. The football team lost eight starters to injury, the women’s basketball team lost its leading scorer, and The O’Connell Center was unavailable for use deep into December.
On Wednesday, December 21, the Gators men’s basketball team made its long-awaited debut at Exactech Arena.
Matched up with a quality Little Rock Trojans team, Florida knew it would have to work for this victory. Having won eight of its first 11 games—all of which were played on the road—Mike White’s crew had become accustomed to shining in the face of adversity.
Behind a balanced offensive effort and an explosive display from beyond the arc, Florida improved to 9-3 overall and 1-0 at home with a 94-71 win over Little Rock.
From start to finish, it may have been the best offensive game of the season from the Gators.
Florida scored an incredible 56 points in the first half and followed with another strong showing in the second half with 38 points. It made a season-high 16 3-point field goals and shot 59.6 percent from the field.
With 20 assists on 34 made field goals and 10 offensive boards, the Gators looked like a NCAA Tournament-caliber team against Little Rock.
Devin Robinson led the charge with 21 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Fellow forward Kevarrius Hayes tallied 12 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and a block as Florida overcame the absence of starting center John Egbunu, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury.
In the backcourt, it was an even more intriguing show. Check out the sights & sounds from the Gators’ big win on Exactech Arena’s opening night! pic.twitter.com/3dNYRSb6w3
— Gators M-Basketball (@GatorsMBK) December 22, 2016 KeVaughn Allen poured in 19 points, five rebounds, two offensive boards, and three assists on 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Kasey Hill was just as impressive, recording 11 points, 11 assists, and three steals in 27 minutes.
For good measure, Canyon Barry scored 15 points and made three 3-point field goals off the bench.
Florida will now enter conference play with a 9-3 record and a number of impressive victories. The Gators rank No. 2 in the country in RPI, No. 1 in strength of schedule, and are currently projected to be a No. 6 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament by Joe Lunardi of ESPN .After everything it’s been through early in 2016-17, Florida is now back at the O’Dome.It feels good to have the Gators back home.