Florida beats Navy 59-41 in White debut as coach
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) The clock had already passed midnight, and Mike White was too weary - and maybe just a bit relieved - to talk in glowing terms about his first game as Florida's coach.
''It doesn't mean more than just being 1-0 and getting off to a good start, beating a good team and a good program on the road,'' White said after the Gators outmuscled Navy in a 59-41 victory Friday night.
White was hired after a successful stint at Louisiana Tech. He replaced Billy Donovan, who left for the NBA after a 19-year run in which he won two NCAA titles.
For the players, the difference was negligible.
''It's pretty much the same,'' guard Chris Chiozza said. ''Two good coaches, and they know we have good players and a great system.''
The Gators overcame an early seven-point deficit to take a 29-19 halftime lead and cruised to the finish.
Devin Robinson, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Florida, was the only player in the game to score in double figures. Dorian Finney-Smith contributed 12 rebounds, and Kasey Hill had eight points and five assists.
The Gators finished with a 47-33 advantage on the boards against the smaller Midshipmen.
''They're very long, they're very athletic. They have guys who score with ease,'' Navy coach Ed DeChellis said.
The Midshipmen were decent enough on defense, but they went 9 for 27 from the floor in the first half and 8 for 32 over the final 20 minutes.
''We just didn't make any baskets. We really couldn't make a jump shot,'' DeChellis said.
The contest rounded out the Veterans Classic, a doubleheader in which top-ranked North Carolina beat Temple in the first game.
White, who arrived at Florida with a 101-40 career record, inherited a young team with only one senior starter and five freshmen overall.
Scoring might be a problem for these Gators, who managed only one basket in the opening seven minutes while falling behind 9-2.
A 7-0 run tied it, and after a dunk by Robinson made it 13-11, the Gators never relinquished the lead.
The Midshipmen closed to 42-29 with 9:16 remaining, but the Gators used an 11-4 spurt to open a 20-point lead.
''I thought we had probably 10 to 12 very good defensive possessions, and in my opinion, that was the difference in the game,'' White said.
DeVon Walker, who missed last season with a torn right ACL, scored two points for Florida in 24 minutes.
Jace Hogan led Navy with eight points.
Florida: The Gators have won 25 straight openers since falling at South Florida in 1990.
Navy: The Midshipmen are 78-31 in season openers. They've lost three in a row and are 2-3 under DeChellis.
Florida: Chiozza made Florida's only 3-pointer in the first half. The Gators finished 3 for 19 beyond the arc.
Navy: The Midshipmen fell to 0-2 in the Veterans Classic. They lost last year to Michigan State 64-59.
Florida: The Seminoles host North Carolina A&T on Monday night.
Navy: The Midshipmen welcome the College Of Charleston on Monday night.