The Florida men’s basketball team said it received a needed wake-up call on Sunday against New Hampshire. Their final tune-up game before a three-game stretch in the Phil Knight Invitational in reality became a struggle after opening the year with back-to-back games with more than 100 points.
Against Stanford on Thursday, the Gators returned back to their high-scoring ways.
Behind 26 points from Egor Koulechov, 17 first-half points from Jalen Hudson and 15 3-pointers, the No. 7 Gators cruised past the Cardinal 108-87 in Portland, Ore., to move into the winner’s bracket of the tournament.
The Gators (4-0) shot a season-high 58.5 percent from the field (38 for 65) and was a blistering 68.2 percent from beyond the arc (15 for 22). They have now scored more in triple figures in three games over a four-game stretch for the first time since the 2001-2002 season.
Six Florida players scored at least 9 points in the blowout. In addition to Hudson and Koulechov, senior point guard Chris Chiozza posted his first double-double of the season with 14 points and a career-high 11 assists. Freshmen Mike Okauru and Deaundre Ballard added 15 and 13 points, respectively. Junior guard KeVaughn Allen added 9 of his own.
And the Gators accomplished this despite being without one of their top front court players.
Coach Mike White suspended junior center Kevarrius Hayes for the game due to a violation of team rules. This was the second internal offense in four games for Hayes, who was taken out of the starting lineup during for the Gators’ win over North Florida on Nov. 16 after missing an academic deadline.
Without Hayes — and with redshirt senior John Egbunu and freshman Isaiah Stokes still recovering from injuries — Florida was down to just Keith Stone and Gorjok Gak as their primary post players against a Stanford team with a front court headlined by 6-foot-8 Reid Travis and 6-foot-9 Michael Humphrey.
With Florida at a disadvantage on a size front, the Gators utilized a smaller lineup that focused on speed and spreading the floor. It paid off.
Florida hit four of its first five 3-point attempts to take an early 18-7 lead and never looked back. The Gators led 58-39 at halftime and hit 13 3s. Koulechov and Hudson each had 17 first-half points while combining to go 9-for-11 from deep.
“I didn’t see it coming offensively for us,” White said in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. “We’re a good shooting team. … [but] that’s pretty staggering.”
The Gators led by as many as 38 points with 8:28 left to play before White went to his bench and began playing a slew of less experienced players in the final few minutes of the game. This allowed Stanford (3-3) to close the game on a 18-3 run in the final four minutes, but Florida’s lead was never in jeopardy. All three of the Gators points came from walk-on Mak Krause.
With the win, Florida will play Friday against the winner of the nightcap between No. 17 Gonzaga and Ohio State. Tipoff for that game is set for 11 p.m.