Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk

For the thirtieth time in program history, the University of Florida is 1-0 to open a season. Backed by a big fourth quarter, the Gators defeated Florida A&M 83-55 Monday evening.

Despite a balanced effort that saw eight players record eighteen minutes of game action, Florida struggled to pull away from the Rattlers until the final period of play.

One reason was Florida’s struggles to find the bucket. In the second quarter, the Gators shot just 3-16 from the floor and entered the halftime break with a 41-30 advantage thanks largely to making 12-15 free throws in the opening two quarters.

While the shots weren’t dropping, the Gators stayed ahead largely to a tenacious defense that forced twenty-eight turnovers, off which they scored twenty-eight points.

FAMU played even with Florida in the third quarter and trailed just 59-48 entering the final frame. The Gators didn’t flinch, however, and knocked down 10-17 field goals, including a pair of threes to stretch the advantage. The smothering defense also held the Rattlers to just 3-16 from the floor in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Five newcomers saw action in the game including three of Florida’s four leading scorers: St. John’s transfer Leilani Correa led the way with 18 points and added four steals, former Purdue Boilermaker Ra Shaya Kyle, a 6’6 center, scored 15 points and grabbed five boards in just under twenty minutes of action, and West Virginia transfer KK Deans added 15 points and 5 assists to the stat sheet while manning the point for the Gators. Junior Jordyn Merritt added a double-double, finishing with 15 points and ten rebounds.

The Gators return to action Sunday as UNC – Asheville makes a trip to Gainesville for a 2:00 PM tip. UNCA defeated Converse 79-25 to open its season Monday.

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