No. 9 Florida opens season with 77-60 victory

AP Sports Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s most anticipated season in four years opened with few problems.

Chandler Parsons scored 16 points, Alex Tyus added 13 and the ninth-ranked Gators beat UNC Wilmington 77-60 on Friday night.

Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy chipped in 10 points apiece for Florida, which returned five starters from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

“It was good. It wasn’t perfect,” Parsons said. “We have a lot of things to clean up.”

The Gators don’t have a lot of time, though. They host No. 4 Ohio State on Tuesday, a game that will give coach Billy Donovan a better feel for what he’s got this season.

Florida trailed by five points early, but used its size and depth advantage to pull away late in the first half. The Gators pounded the ball inside to start the second half, created turnovers with their press and opened a 24-point lead before cruising the rest of the way.

The program won its 20th consecutive opener.

Chad Tomko led the Seahawks with 15 points, while Trevor Deloach added 14.

Florida spoiled the debut of first-year coach Buzz Peterson, who faced the Gators eight times as head coach at Tennessee (2002-05). Peterson spent last season at Appalachian State. He has also worked at Tulsa and Coastal Carolina, and served as director of player personnel for the Charlotte Bobcats.

His newest team shot 48 percent from the field, but couldn’t overcome 20 turnovers and a 14-rebound disadvantage.

“There were a lot of jitters,” Peterson said. “Florida’s tall and they’ve got good speed. I really like Billy’s team. He’s got a log of guys returning and this could be a good year for them.”

The Gators earned a No. 10 seed in last season’s NCAA tournament and added one of Donovan’s most talented freshman classes.

Florida’s combination of size, experience and depth made it a preseason favorite to win the Southeastern Conference and a trendy pick to get back to the Final Four for the first time since winning a second consecutive national title in 2007.

That team– the one with roommates Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green — had few weaknesses.

This one, however, still has plenty of uncertainty. The Gators struggled most of last season from 3-point range and played spotty perimeter defense.

They weren’t a whole lot better in the opener.

UNC Wilmington made its first four 3-pointers before cooling off considerably.

Florida, meanwhile, missed its first four from behind the arc. Tyus, a power forward, made the first 3-pointer — an ominous sign for a team that was the worst shooting team in Donovan’s tenure in Gainesville.

Boynton, the team’s shooting guard, missed all six of his shots from 3-point range. Parsons was 1 for 4.

The Gators finished 6 of 19 from behind the arc. They made up for it with 17 offensive rebounds and 18 assists on 28 baskets.

Donovan found plenty else to scrutinize. He wasn’t pleased with his team’s 15 turnovers and said his guys gave up way too many easy baskets.

“We’ve got to get more disciplined,” Donovan said. “I think that we have a team that can press. We’ve got to get more disciplined in terms of what we’re doing and I do believe we have a chance to be a good pressing team. We’ve just got to keep getting better at it.”

Florida’s freshmen give Donovan enough bodies to rotate often and press the entire game. The freshmen were somewhat quiet in their debut, although they showed flashes of ability and plenty of potential throughout the game.

Scottie Wilbekin led the way with three points, five assists and four steals. Patric Young, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete were a combined 3 of 10 shooting, chipping in seven points and four rebounds.

“It helps a lot,” Boynton said. “I can’t remember too many times in the game when I was tired. Coach had us rotating in and out, and they gave us good minutes off the bench.”

Updated November 12, 2010