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Lewis helps Gators secure win in first start

144 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: Gators Athletics

WHAT HAPPENED: In his first career start, freshman wing Scottie Lewis scored a team-high 15 points and hit a big shot and free throws down the stretch, as the 15th-ranked Gators survived a too-close-for-comfort scare from the Tigers and held on Thursday night for a win at Exactech Arena/O'Connell Center. With the game tied at 57, Lewis hit one of two free throws with just inside five minutes left, then a driving layup in traffic to put UF ahead by, 60-57, with 3:27 left. Towson forward Juwan Gray tied it with a 3-ball at the 2:11 mark, but a post-up bank from forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. was the start of six straight points for the Gators to end the game, with the final four points coming on free throws by Andrew Nembhard (with 29.6 seconds left) and Lewis (18.5 remaining) after a couple big stops by the UF defense. Blackshear finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, for his third double-double in as many games this season. Nembhard had 11 points, nine assists and three turnovers for a UF offense that shot 42 percent for the game and made seven of its 22 shots from deep. Towson got 14 points from guard Allen Bertrand, as the Tigers were at 48-percent shooting for the game before missing six of their last seven field-goal attempts against a juice UF defense. 

WHAT IT MEANS: No one will be doing cartwheels down University Avenue over this one, but it's a win the team had to fight for down the stretch. The Gators (and their fans) left the O'Dome with a much better feeling than the Florida State downer of four days earlier.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Guessing we'll see Lewis remain in the starting lineup next time out. He finished five of eight from the floor, including 2-for-4 from the 3-point line, and played solid defense over his 31 minutes.

STAGGERING STATISTIC: Letting Towson, out of the Colonial Athletic Conference, come in to the O'Dome and shoot 48 percent from the floor over 38 minutes win the battle of the boards, 32-30, was very much out of character for a program that is built and prides itself on defense.

UP NEXT: Florida (2-1) hits the road this weekend for date against Connecticut (1-1) Sunday afternoon in Storrs, Conn. The Huskies and Gators, of course, have history between them, from UF's epic overtime upset in the Sweet 16 of the 1994 tournament to the UConn's crushing upset of the No. 1 Gators in the 2014 Final Four, a defeat that snapped a school-record 30-game winning streak on the Huskies way to capturing a fourth NCAA title. These teams don't resemble those teams, but it's the first of a nice home-and-home non-conference series. UConn opened the season by beating Sacred Heart, but got drilled at home by St. Joseph's, 96-87, in a game the Huskies never led.