No. 7 Florida opens season with easy victory over William & Mary
Even in a little pain, Dorian Finney-Smith looked quite comfortable in his new role.
Finney-Smith scored 15 points, Michael Frazier II added 14 and No. 7 Florida opened the season with a 68-45 victory over William & Mary on Friday night.
Michigan transfer Jon Horford chipped in 11 points for the Gators, who won their 24th consecutive season opener and improved to 19-0 on opening night under coach Billy Donovan.
"We’re a well-balanced team," Frazier said. "On any given night, it can be anybody."
Florida dominated every aspect of the game and even played solid defense. Donovan said earlier this week his team wasn’t "remotely close" to deserving its lofty ranking because of defensive inconsistency. He added that the Gators had a "long, long, long way" to go to match last year’s Final Four team on that end of the floor.
He changed his tune a bit after the opener.
Florida held William & Mary to 26 percent shooting, including 2-of-22 from behind the 3-point line. Omar Prewitt led the Tribe with 15 points. Marcus Thornton added 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting. The preseason Colonial Athletic Association player of the year, Thornton missed all five shots from behind the arc.
"I saw some growth individually and some growth collectively," Donovan said.
Florida, which won 30 consecutive games and went undefeated in Southeastern Conference play last season, lost starters Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Patric Young.
Donovan is counting on Finney-Smith, Frazier, Eli Carter and Kasey Hill to take on bigger roles.
Finney-Smith and Frazier did their part against William & Mary.
Finney-Smith, the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year last season who is starting now, was 5-of-9 shooting despite playing much of the game with his left wrist heavily taped. He was taken to a nearby hospital for X-rays after the game, but Donovan didn’t think it was serious.
"We’re hoping it’s a sprain," Donovan said. "That’s the early diagnosis."
Frazier was 6 of 13, including 2 of 6 from 3-point range. Finney-Smith and Frazier had five rebounds apiece.
The Gators used a 15-0 run early in the game to open up a double-digit lead and cruised the rest of the way. They were ahead 65-40 when Donovan emptied the bench with 2:06 remaining. Freshman walk-on Zach Hodskins, who was born without a left hand, got the loudest ovation. He missed his only shot in the closing seconds.
"It’s surreal," said Hodskins, a 6-4 guard from Alpharetta, Georgia. "I’ve always dreamed of being here, and tonight I feel like I fulfilled that dream and now I’m just going to take that next step forward. It’s kind of like the first time I did public speaking. I was a little bit nervous, but after I did it once, I was fine. I think I’m going to be fine if I get in another game."
Florida used just seven scholarship players most of the game. The Gators were without forward Chris Walker, who is suspended two games for violating team rules. They also were without guard Brandone Francis (academics) and guard DeVon Walker (knee). Center John Egbunu has to sit out the entire season because of NCAA transfer rules, and forward Alex Murphy will miss the first 10 games after transferring from Duke last year. "We obviously don’t have a lot of depth right now, especially across the front line," Donovan said.
William & Mary: The Tribe fell to 4-17 all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference. … It was William & Mary’s first visit to the Sunshine State since winning at North Florida in 2007.
Florida: The Gators won their 33rd consecutive home game, extending the longest streak in school history. … They improved to 116-6 against non-conference opponents in the O’Connell Center since 2000.
Williams & Mary hosts Howard on Tuesday.
Florida hosts Miami on Monday.