GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Florida coach Billy Donovan witnessed a nearly perfect opening half from his team Thursday night. It was enough to overwhelm another overmatched opponent.
Al Horford and Joakim Noah dominated again inside, combining for 34 points and 17 rebounds and leading the top-ranked Gators to a 90-61 victory against Jacksonville.
The defending national champions extending their winning streak to 14 games and won their 23rd consecutive game against non-conference opponents.
This one was over by halftime as the Gators made 23 of their first 27 shots, shot 79 percent from the floor, compiled a 23-7 rebound advantage and recorded 18 assists on 23 baskets.
“We were making the extra pass a lot and getting open shots,” Horford said.
Florida (3-0) built a 31-point lead late in the first half, going ahead 45-14 on Taurean Green’s 3-pointer, and cruised the rest of the way.
“We got a lot of layups, a lot of dunks,” Green said. “Guys were just knocking down shots.”
The Gators led 56-20 at the break, and the only downside was 10 turnovers— more than Florida had in either of its first two games.
The second half was considerably different. Florida’s reserves played much of the half, and Jacksonville (1-2) outscored the Gators 41-34 in the final 20 minutes.
Donovan hoped to use the lackadaisical effort as a learning tool.
“Jacksonville was a lot more competitive and a lot tougher than us in the second half,” Donovan said. “Our team was totally outplayed in the second half. We’ve got a very good basketball team when we play on edge. We came out full of ourselves, a little fat and not hungry. The result was 41 points and 57 percent shooting (for Jacksonville).
“That part was disappointing.”
Donovan conceded that his team experienced a natural letdown after such an impressive start.
“There’s a normal reaction to let up and have complacency,” he said.
But he also blamed himself and his players for the drop-off.
“I didn’t do a good enough job at halftime,” he said. “Whatever I said to them wasn’t very inspiring.”
It was the second game in three days for Florida and the second of four contests over eight days as the champs prepare for the Las Vegas Invitational next week. The Gators will play Western Kentucky and No. 3 Kansas on consecutive nights in Vegas.
Corey Claitt led the Dolphins with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jesse Kimbrough and Tyrone Curnell added 10 points apiece.
Jacksonville kept it close early, trailing 13-8 in the opening minutes. But the Gators used a 20-2 run—Horford and Noah took over inside—and essentially put the game away with more than a half to play.
“I think some of our guys were getting a little frustrated,” Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren said. “We shot the ball quickly and we did not get back in transition defense. One of the thing we talked about in pregame is Florida does a great job of getting out and running in transition. Their big guys can get defensive rebounds and start the break themselves. We wanted to put an emphasis on transition defense.”
The Dolphins tried to run with the Gators, but the move backfired.
Noah and Horford finished a combined 15-of-22 from the field, scoring mostly on dunks, layups and putbacks. Backup center Chris Richard was equally effective down low, scoring nine points on 3-of-4 shooting.
“We came out focused and made a statement early,” Horford said. “But we got a little sloppy and tried to make too many over-the-top plays. We’ve got to stay consistent.”