No. 24 Florida looks to extend win streak vs. Marshall

NCAA Basketball
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No. 24 Florida and Marshall both have enjoyed time to rest and regroup before heading into their first-ever meeting on Friday night at Gainesville, Fla.

Conference USA’s Thundering Herd (2-3) last played Nov. 21, when they defeated visiting Howard 91-63.

The Gators (5-2) are coming off winning the Charleston Classic, in which they defeated then-No. 18 Xavier 70-65 in the title game on Sunday.

Florida returned to the Top 25 after rebounding from losing two of three — to Florida State and Connecticut — by winning three games at Charleston.

“I feel Friday will be a big test for us to see how we managed our win in this past tournament,” sophomore forward Keyontae Johnson said Wednesday. “I feel if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll be fine.”

The Gators are averaging 66.9 points while allowing 61.3, and they’re shooting 43.3 percent overall and holding opponents to 38.8 percent. At Charleston, Florida averaged scoring 72.7 points and shot 50.3 percent, 40.7 percent from 3-point territory, for the three games.

Graduate-transfer forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. leads the way with team highs of 13.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game. Johnson is averaging 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds. Sophomore guard Andrew Nembhard is contributing 10.3 points and 5.4 assists per game.

With such newcomers as Blackshear and freshman guard Scottie Lewis (8.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg), the Gators are still learning how to be more efficient, especially offensively. The team held on for victory despite missing its final six shots against Xavier.

“Sometimes basketball is as simple as whether the ball goes in or not,” fourth-year coach Mike White said. “It’s going in more often for us. We’re executing better. Our tempo’s better, certain guys are growing in confidence. Our role identification has improved.

“It needs to continue to improve. Very much a work in progress.”

Marshall returned to practice Tuesday after a three-day break.

“It’s helped me a lot,” sixth-year coach Dan D’Antoni told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “I got to sleep and we won the last game and got to sit on it a while.

“Last year, I thought we ran out of gas. This year, we tested the waters and gave them a three-day break. It’s a long season and we’ve got kids that play extremely hard. Giving them a little break, I’m hoping they come back refreshed because our road ahead is very, very difficult.”

Sophomore guard Taevion Kinsey averages 15.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He has posted a double-double in two of the last three games.

“We needed that (win against Howard), especially going into the break,” Kinsey told the Gazette-Mail. “That’s big, and then with this game that we have on Friday against Florida, I think it gives us confidence going into it.”

The only other Marshall player scoring in double figures is junior guard Jarrod West, averaging a team-high 15.4 points.

Overall, the Thundering Herd are scoring 71.6 points per game but surrendering 73.8. They’re shooting 44.7 percent overall and just 24.5 percent from behind the arc.

–Field Level Media

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