Beavers take offense early, often

PORTLAND, Ore.death golden watched Oregon State play Duke Thursday live. The Florida coach watched everything on tape later in the day after the Gators were beaten by Xavier and watched a second-round matchup between Phil Knight Legacy and the Beavers, who hours earlier scared eighth-placed Blue Devils. Of greater basketball significance, they threw down a suffocating defense for one of the nation’s true powerhouses in a game that went to the last minute.

“This game worried me,” Golden said after studying how OSU kept Duke at 27 percent shooting and lost by just three points in a contest held less than 90 miles from the Beavers’ Corvallis campus. “They did a really good job with the zoning [Duke] for most of the game and just really dictates the pace and flow of the game.”

It was the Gators’ job to take the dictates.

And dictate that they did.

UF leapfrogged OSU by scoring the game’s first nine points, increasing the lead to 23 midway through the first half and taking the Beavers on wire-to-wire in an 81-68 win without ever being seriously challenged by Moda -Center. junior guard Trey Bonham, the Virginia Military Institute transfer making its second start, led all scorers with 19 points to put a quartet of Alligators in double digits. Guard Will Richard, the transfer from Belmont, had 13 points and five rebounds. Fifth year forward Colin Castleton finished with 12 points, six boards, four assists and three blocked shots. Freshman Guard Riley ball came off the bench and scored 10 points in his best all-around game.

“Really, all 10 guys that came in and played tonight played well. That was really gratifying,” Golden said. “I feel like this is a game we can really build on.”

 

Rewind to Thursday. Before the Gators (4-2) were beaten 90-83 by Xavier in their tournament opener, the Beavers (3-3) emphasized the undefeated Blue Devils by taking them to 26.7 percent from the floor (16 of 6) and 17 .2 percent from depth limited (5 of 29). Duke escaped for a 54-51 win. On Friday, Oregon State watched as Florida shot 56.6 percent for the game (30 of 53) — including 60.0 in the second half — to end with a solid 42.1 from 3-point arc (8 of 19 ) and 86.7 from the free throw to go line (13 of 15).

And the Gators arrived in Moda with their hands hot.

“We were focused on delivering the first punch,” said the fifth-year point guard Kyle Lofton said. “I thought we made sure of that.”

Four quick free throws (two by Castleton, then two by Bonham) on the first two possessions, then a Castleton layup, then Richard’s 3-pointer had put UF 9-0 up in under three minutes. The score was 22-4 at the end of the 11-minute mark, with the Gators making eight of their first 11 shots and the Beavers just two of 13, including 0-for-8 from the arc.

“We shot early and stopped early,” Bonham said.

Florida led deep into the first half by as many as 23 points, and Oregon State never threatened to move forward past 11 with 1:30 before a driving layup of ball and 3-pointers from reserve Alex Fudge got rid of all late game weird vibes.

The Beavers finished the game with 46.4 percent, 38.1 from 3, and were led by guard Jordan Pope and backup forward Tyler Bilodeau with 12 points.

It was a far cry from the OSU Duke drama the day before, as the Beavers fired two 3-pointers in the final five seconds, either of which would have sent the game into overtime.

Hence Golden’s “concern,” which was allayed almost instantly by his team’s quick start

“I thought we had a couple of early retirements that took the lid off the rim,” he said. “We saw our first couple of outside shots go in which inspired confidence at our club. That was our best offensive game of the year.”

That included another energetic performance from Bonham, who scored just three points and saw limited action in the team’s first three games but made a big impact in the comeback from 17 down a week ago against Florida State since the start of the second half on both sides had the ground. The night before, on his first start as a Gator, Bonham poured in 23 points.

Against the Beavers, he threw down seven of his 12 field goals, including three of six from deep, both his free throws, and had three rebounds, three assists and no turning over.

“I’ve been playing basketball for a long time and I feel like my old self,” Bonham said with a smile. “It feels good.”

The same goes for winning a game at an event of its caliber. Now the Gators want another one. They’ll get West Virginia (5-1) in their last game here on Sunday.

As Richard put it: “If we could go 2-1 in a tournament like this, it wouldn’t be so bad.”

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