By DEVON CONWAY
UT’s men’s basketball team took on the Florida Gators in a Sunday afternoon’s exhibition in Gainesville. UF beat the Spartans easily 94-57 and is now 2-7 in the all-time series against the Gators.
To start the game, the Gators hit an immediate three, setting the tone for the entire game. The first point of the game was a jumper scored by junior 7’1 center Nikola Marijan. Senior 6’5 forward Marcel Robinson followed with a layup before the first media timeout, the Gators leading the game 16-2. By the second media timeout, the Gators were up 36-14 on the Spartans. The Gators went on a 22-point run until senior 6’5 guard Frantz Pinard scored a layup, making the score 51-16 UF. The first half ended on a good note for the Spartans as senior 6’8 forward Duke Shelton scored a layup, shortening the lead for the Gators.
“As a team, we could have moved the ball better and played some tougher defense in the first half, as well as communicate better as a team,” said Shelton.
The second half started with another two-point jumper from Marijan. Despite this, the Gators went on an eight-point run making the score 59-24. With 15 minutes left in the game, sophomore 6’2 guard Mekhi Biffle hit back to back jumpers for the Spartans. The game ended in a Gators win, but the Spartans did have some impressive moments.
“Although UF is a good team, at the end of the day it’s basketball and we have to come out and get the job done as a unit,” said Shelton.
Shelton led the Spartans with a double-double, allotting 22 points and 11 rebounds. At the end of the game, UF head coach Mike White, stopped Shelton and said that with the way Shelton took it to the UF defense, it may just have gotten him drafted to the NBA.
“I think I played pretty good,” said Shelton. “Although I could have done better I missed a few loose balls and rebounds. I also didn’t execute as well as I would have liked to on some of my shot selection. I have to execute better.”
Despite the efforts of Shelton and the Spartans, Robinson is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“I expect my team to come to play hard and prep for every game correctly as a unit,” said Robinson. “UF played a good game. We didn’t play how we practiced, but the rest of the season the key word is going to be discipline.”
An exciting aspect of the Spartans season this year is their trip to Hawaii. The Spartans are set to take on Western Washington University and Hawaii Hilo University on Dec. 17 and 18 in Honolulu.
“Hawaii will be an exciting trip not only for the players but for the entire program,” said Robinson. “A new venue to compete on to show what we can do as a team is always amazing as an athlete. It will be fun, but of course we are there to take care of business.”
The Spartans begin their season on Nov. 11 against North Alabama, followed by games against Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 12 and Eckerd College on Nov. 15.
“My expectations this season are high,” said Shelton. “I’m coming into the games doing everything in my power to help my team win and that’s all I care about. I want to be remembered as a winner.”
Devon Conway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org