GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Egor Koulechov scored 34 points, hitting six 3-pointers in his Florida debut, to lead the eighth-ranked Gators to a 116-74 victory against Gardner-Webb in the team’s season opener Monday night.
Koulechov, a graduate transfer from Rice, broke the school record for most points in a debut. Tom Baxley held the previous mark, scoring 32 points against Rick Barry and Miami in 1962. Florida ended up losing that game after Baxley fouled out in overtime.
Koulechov and the Gators had no issues against Gardner-Webb (0-2). Koulechov added five rebounds and five assists.
Florida hit 10 3-pointers in the first half, including five by Koulechov. He drained consecutive treys from the corner to put the Gators up 34-19 early. The newcomer nicknamed ”Three-gor” had 23 points at the break.
Koulechov is a key addition in coach Mike White’s third season, one that began with high expectations after the Gators finished one victory short of making the Final Four in March.
Koulechov, KeVaughn Allen, senior Chris Chiozza and Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson give the Gators their deepest backcourt in years – and enough outside shooting to make them a threat every game.
Chiozza, who sprained his left shoulder in an exhibition game 11 days ago, came off the bench Monday night and looked far from rusty.
Hudson chipped in 16 points, and freshman Mike Okauru added 13.
DJ Laster led the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Gators dominated every aspect of the game and opened up a 40-point lead midway through the second half.
Florida coasted from there and won its 27th consecutive opener.
Gardner-Webb: The Runnin’ Bulldogs got $80,000 to play the game, a nice payday that will help fund the Big South basketball program. Coach Tim Craft will get a better gauge of his team’s ability over the next two weeks.
Florida: The Gators have embraced lofty goals of making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and the opener will only raise expectations. With Koulechov, this also could be Florida’s best shooting team since former coach Billy Donovan’s back-to-back title teams.
Three former Florida players were on hand for opening night, and one of them did something totally unique.
Swingman Canyon Barry, a graduate transfer from College of Charleston last season and the Southeastern Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year, played a trombone with the Florida band during an early timeout. Barry got a huge ovation after the song. The youngest son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry had been enrolled in a two-year Master of Science program in nuclear engineering.
Former guards Teddy Dupay and Michael Frazier II also were at the game.
Gardner-Webb concludes its Florida Swing by playing at Central Florida on Wednesday night. The Runnin’ Bulldogs lost by 32 points at 11th-ranked Miami last week.
Florida plays twice more at home over the next six days, beginning against North Florida on Thursday night.
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