GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Florida’s first game as a ranked team this season was a mismatch.
Marreese Speights had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Walter Hodge added 14 points and the 25th-ranked Gators overwhelmed North Florida 102-51 Tuesday night.
The two-time defending national champion Gators (5-0) extended their winning streak to 15 games and pushed their home winning streak to 24.
But coach Billy Donovan still doesn’t know much about his young team.
“As we start to play against teams that are more physical and bigger and more athletic, I think we’ll find out a little bit more,” Donovan said. “We haven’t been on the road with these guys yet. We haven’t played an SEC game yet. We haven’t played a top-10 or top-20 team yet.
“We’re going to find those things as the season unfolds and progresses.”
Florida’s biggest early season test could come Friday night against rival Florida State, one of five teams that beat the Gators last season.
“Florida State, in the first six games, is by far the most talented team we’ll play,” Donovan said.
North Florida may be at the opposite end of that talent pool. The Gators were bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled at nearly every position against the Ospreys (1-3), and it quickly showed.
Florida jumped ahead 22-4, was up 50-20 late in the first half and made it 70-24 early in the second half.
“If we keep passing and playing together, we’re going to do something special,” guard Nick Calathes said. “Everyone can score on our team; we have so many offensive threats.”
Last season’s team—the one featuring first-round NBA draft picks Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah—beat North Florida 86-40 in Gainesville, and the Ospreys returned three starters from that squad.
But the Gators may have been even more dominant, forcing 19 turnovers and finishing with a 48-31 rebounding advantage.
Dan Werner had 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists. And Calathes added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists—another complete game from the team’s most talented freshman.
Fellow freshmen Chandler Parsons and Jai Lucas added 13 and 11, respectively.
Donovan was supposed to have a rebuilding project on his hands this season, but Speights, Hodge and a deep freshman class have eased the undertaking.
“They’re trying to play together, they have good work ethic, good chemistry, they’re trying to get better, their attitude’s been very good,” Donovan said. “They haven’t been a team that thinks, ‘Hey, we’re a lot better, we’re 5-0, we’re really good and in the top 25—the things that can distract a team.
“I haven’t noticed any of that stuff things with our guys. They’ve done a good job of keeping that stuff in perspective.”
The Gators rarely missed from the floor against North Florida. They shot 61.5 percent from the floor in the first half and were even better from 3-point range.
Led by Hodge’s 3-for-4 shooting, Florida was 8-for-12 from behind the arc. Donovan’s team also made 19 of 26 from the free-throw line in the opening half.
The Gators cooled off in the second—still, they finished 13-of-25 from behind the arc—but the Ospreys never really trimmed into the huge lead.
DeVon Jones scored 12 points to lead North Florida, which lost its 34th consecutive road game. The Ospreys, in their third season at the Division I level, have never beaten another Division I team away from home.
“Florida came in and totally just outplayed, top to bottom, as soon as that ball got thrown up,” UNF coach Matt Kilcullen said.