GAINESVILLE — Two games in, the 3-point shot isn't falling and the offense is a work in progress. But Florida coach Billy Donovan firmly believes he has a better team this season.
After last year's dismal approach to defense, the Gators are finally showing signs that Donovan's plea to improve defensively is being heard.
Florida shot 25 percent from the field in the first half Wednesday, yet earned a 69-49 win over Georgia Southern — holding the Eagles to below 33 percent shooting from the field — in front of 10,006 at the O'Connell Center.
The Gators (2-0) led 26-25 at halftime, having shot 8-of-31 overall and 0-for-9 from 3-point range. The Gators are 3-of-29 on 3-pointers.
With a 31-30 lead, Florida finally found some offensive rhythm, going on a 12-2 run to take a 43-32 lead.
"We started playing more physical," said forward Chandler Parsons, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds and hit the Gators' only 3-point basket. "We started taking care of the ball more. We were rushing a little bit in the first half, so we slowed down, stayed patient and executed better."
Georgia Southern's comeback effort was hampered by foul trouble, aggravated by its aggressive style of play. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Gators were in the double bonus, and they eventually had 43 free-throw attempts, hitting 29. Trailing 46-36, Georgia Southern (1-2) hit three consecutive 3-pointers to pull within seven, but it never got closer.
Florida freshman Kenny Boynton scored a game-high 22 points and had five rebounds, and center Vernon Macklin added 15 points and seven rebounds.
Florida held Georgia Southern to 32.7 percent shooting from the field, 22.2 percent from beyond the arc, and outrebounded the Eagles 51-33.
"We needed a game like this," Donovan said. "We didn't need a 30-, 35-point win; we don't need that.
"It was good to see our guys stick together in the huddle. They grinded it out, they hung in there, they battled. They did a lot of positive things, which I really, really liked."