GAINESVILLE — As season openers go, Florida coach Billy Donovan saw plenty of room for improvement. But he also saw a great deal he liked, most importantly a stellar defensive effort from his young squad that he hopes bodes well.
Florida relied on its defense early then rallied with a balanced scoring effort and four players in double figures on its way to a 74-46 victory Sunday over Stetson at the O'Connell Center. The Gators have won 19 consecutive season openers.
"We're really balanced this year, and we've got a lot of guys who can shoot," said junior forward Alex Tyus, who shot 6-of-8 and had 12 points and 13 rebounds. "I feel like it's going to be a lot different this year as far as scoring."
Stetson (0-1) got out to a 5-2 lead as the Gators shot 2-of-9 in the first 5½ minutes. From there, Florida held Stetson to 1-of-19 from the field during a 31-4 run.
The Gators led 39-17 at halftime, and Stetson never recovered.
"One thing I was really pleased with was that — and I've said this a lot of times before — that when your offense is struggling, it can really bleed over into your defense," Donovan said. "I really thought our guys did a good job with the level of resiliency with having an offensive performance that wasn't great.-"
In his first game for the Gators, junior transfer Vernon Macklin had 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Although Florida shot 52 percent from the field, it made 1 of 13 3-pointers.
Junior Chandler Parsons hit the lone 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in the game. The basket kept alive a school-record streak of 580 games with a 3-pointer.
"Honestly, I had no idea until I walked into the locker room and Mr. Foley (Jeremy, athletic director), told me," Parsons said. "I noticed at first that it got really loud (after he hit it), but I didn't know. I'm honored to keep the streak alive."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected],.com or (813) 226-3389.