Locke scores career-high 18, Florida beats UNF 98-66
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is finding points and energy from a couple unexpected sources.
Locke, a freshman from Maryland, has worked his way into the starting lineup in place of senior Jalen Hudson and emerged as a reliable scorer for the Gators (4-3).
“No one on our team plays any harder than Noah,” Florida coach Mike White said.
Ballard, a sophomore from Atlanta, is giving White production off the bench. Ballard reached double figures for the third consecutive game. He had a career-high 19 points in Florida’s last game against Stanford.
“I’m very proud of his progression,” White said.
Locke and Ballard were two of six Florida players with at least 10 points against the overmatched Ospreys (2-5). KeVaughn Allen scored 13, Kevarrius Hayes added 12, Keyontae Johnson chipped in 11 and Keith Stone finished with 10 for the Gators.
Florida shot a season-high 56.5 percent from the field and made 16 of 28 from 3-point range.
The Gators tied an NCAA record by having nine different players hit a 3. They reached the mark when walk-on Andrew Fava hit from long range with 31 seconds remaining.
“That’s what they do,” UNF coach Matthew Driscoll said. “We be more surprised when they’re not hitting 3s than when they are.”
Florida turned a one-point game into a double-digit lead midway through the first half and really got things going with a late run just before the break. Ballard and Johnson hit 3-pointers during the spurt.
Florida led 53-33 at intermission and stretched the lead to 30 with about 10 minutes to play.
White rotated 11 guys, and all of them scored. Freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard was the last to find the basket, ending a scoreless night with a 3-pointer with 4 minutes to play. He also had 11 assists and no turnovers.
“He’s pretty good, huh?” White said. “He’s tough. He cares. He’s about the right things.”
Florida improved to 8-0 in the series, including wins in each of the last four years.
Locke and Ballard led the way in the latest one.
“It’s all about confidence,” Locke said. “I feel like guys had the mentality of trying to defend our home court, and we needed to knock down shots to win.”
North Florida: The Ospreys got a taste of what’s to come with a challenging, non-conference schedule that includes trips to Minnesota, No. 15 Florida State and eighth-ranked Auburn in December. Coach Matthew Driscoll hopes it better prepares his guys for Atlantic-Sun Conference play.
Florida: The Gators notched their third win in as many games at home, all against overmatched opponents. Their next one in the O’Connell Center won’t be a pushover since No. 9 Michigan State visits Dec. 8, which follows a game against West Virginia.
“I can tell you one thing: we’re not shooting 57 percent against either one of those teams,” White said.
North Florida hosts Florida A&M on Thursday, playing at home for the first time in more than two weeks.
Florida plays West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.