Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - After a shocking home loss earlier in the week, the eighth-ranked Florida Gators will try to get back on the winning track on Friday night when they welcome the ULM Warhawks to the O'Connell Center in a preliminary round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
ULM, which went just 10-17 a season ago, has gotten the 2014-15 campaign off to an impressive start with wins in each of its first two contests. After claiming a 74-65 road win over UAB in the opener, the Warhawks dismantled Champion Baptist on their home floor on Monday, 106-39.
Florida got the season off to a predictably strong start in its opener with a 68-45 win and appeared to be on a similar track against Miami-Florida on Monday up by 15 in the second half, but its advantage disappeared down the stretch and it fell victim to a game-winning bucket in the final minute to fall, 69-67. The loss snapped the Gators' school-record 33-game home winning streak.
This marks the first-ever meeting between the programs on the hardwood.
The Warhawks were nothing short of dominant their last time out, as their 67- point margin of victory was their largest in school history. They shot a lights-out 59.4 percent from the field, including 9-of-24 from 3-point range, while holding Champion Baptist to a lowly 26.9 percent shooting. They also scored 40 points off of 24 turnovers. Jamaal Samuel led the way with 18 points off the bench. Tylor Ongwae netted 16 points on 8-of-10 from the field, Mack Foster and Marvin Williams put up 13 and 11 points, respectively, and in all 10 players scored at least seven points.
The explosion certainly skewed ULM's early-season stats, as it scores 90.0 ppg and gives up just 52.0 ppg. Ongwae (17.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), Justin Roberson (13.5 ppg), Samuel (10.5 ppg), Nick Coppola (10.5 ppg, 5.0 apg) and Majok Deng (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) are all shooting greater than 50 percent from the field.
The Gators were able to build an early lead by shooting nearly 61 percent from the field in the first half, but they regressed to 44.4 percent in the second stanza while Miami came storming back. They were also hindered by losing the rebounding battle (27-24) and by a quiet night at the foul line (7-of-9). Eli Carter was outstanding with 21 points on 8-of-9 from the field, but he committed a turnover in the waning seconds that cost his team a scoring chance. Jon Horford tallied 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and Michael Frazier added 13 points.
The new-look Florida squad, which said goodbye to four starters in the offseason, is still outshooting its opposition, 49.5 percent to 39.6 percent, for a +10.5 scoring margin. Dorian Finney-Smith scored 15 in the opener but missed the Miami game with a hand injury. Carter (14.5 ppg), Horford (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Frazier (13.5 ppg) also average in double figures.