As the clock struck zero on the first half in Tallahassee, Todd Golden's Florida Gators trailed by 17 points to the hosting Florida State Seminoles after an underwhelming first half of play.
Failing to create momentum on either end of the floor, the Gators looked for an immediate answer in the locker room before retaking the hardwood for the final 20 minutes of play. They found exactly that by shaking up the rotation in the second half.
After courting Kyle Lofton, Kowacie Reeves Jr., Will Richard, CJ Felder and Colin Castleton to start each game and half of the year to that point, Florida sat Reeves to begin the second half in favor of an unlikely source of production in junior transfer Trey Bonham. The Gators rallied back and covered the seven-point spread with a 50-24 second-half performance.
But, more importantly, they found two-way sustainability in a heightened capacity in comparison to the first three games of the year.
As a result, Golden and Co. are exploring a potential deviation from the starting five they employed in the first four contests when they tip off against Xavier on Thursday in game one of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament.
"We might look at something different on Thursday, we'll see how practice goes today and talk about it on the way out there," Golden said during media availability on Tuesday. "But obviously when you outscore an opponent by 26 in a half playing a certain lineup you've got to think about what you are doing and seeing if that might be a better way to go."
The better way, in this regard, likely refers to Bonham's ascension from deep-bench rotational player to hit the court as the starting two guard for Florida's extended trip to Portland, Ore.
The VMI transfer showcased his talents in the biggest role he's assumed all year for Florida against the Seminoles after averaging just seven minutes per game in the first three games of the year.
His successful outing began on the defensive end, where he recorded a block and rebound despite being noticeably the smallest player on the court on the first possession out of the half. He turned around to hit a triple on the opposite end to kickstart the Gators' surge back within striking distance and later made the bucket to overtake FSU's once sizable lead.
The production in big moments, paired with the boost in tempo with him on the court, ascended Florida to unforeseen heights this season.
Showcasing his prowess as a multi-level scorer, increased vision as a facilitator and quick hands and feet on the defensive end, Bonham proved his worth to Golden and his staff on Friday after a slow start to his Florida career.
"I thought Trey did a great job with his opportunity at the beginning of the second half, Golden said about the Mobile, Ala., native's performance. "Hit a big three that kind of got us going, and then turned them over right there on the next possession. He just played with great confidence and tempo. I think he will continue to build his confidence and play well."
That's the guy they expected to see when he arrived in Gainesville this offseason. He delivered that for the first time while facilitating the victory over the Seminoles.
"He gives us the ability to put a little more pressure at the top of the defense," Golden said. "He takes heat off Kyle. We've asked Kyle to do a lot —pressure the ball full court, pretty much initiate even action on the offense. And Trey, as a secondary ballhandler and playmaker, [is] a guy who can get in the paint and really put pressure on the point of the defense, takes a little off Kyle's shoulders."
Not only did he help Lofton in the backcourt, but he was a major catalyst for Castleton's uptick in production in the second half as he commanded considerable attention with his ability to penetrate the lane and stretch the floor, as Golden mentioned.
The Gators All-SEC big man scored 19 of his 25 total points in the second half, mostly alongside the 6-foot guard.
Bonham finished the contest with 11 points, seven rebounds, a team-leading three assists, two steals and one block. His contributions led him to record a +16 plus/minus rating, the best of any Florida player during the contest.
The success he realized has the potential to kickstart his career in orange and blue, much like it did Florida on Friday night. He built an extra edge of confidence and affirmed that he belongs at the Power Six level of college basketball.
"That I'm always going to be ready when my name's called," Bonham said he proved on the road at Florida State. "The previous games, I didn't play as much as I did last game, so just having the mindset really with the whole team, you just never know when your name is going to be called and be ready for the moment."
Now, the guard will move forward in legitimate contention for a starting guard spot.
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