GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Nick Calathes broke out of a shooting slump with 19 points, Chandler Parsons added 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Florida beat Jacksonville 84-62 Wednesday night in the opening round of the NIT.
The Gators, who lost four of their last six and missed the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year, played one of their best first halves of the season. They shot 63 percent from the field, were 6-of-9 from 3-point range and had a 21-point lead at the break.Florida (24-10) extended it to 25 early in the second half on Ray Shipman's dunk, then coasted the rest of the way. The Gators will host Miami in the second round Friday.Lehmon Colbert led Jacksonville (18-14) with 11 points and six rebounds.Calathes struggled from the field the last six games as Florida became the first program since Michigan State in 1980 to miss the NCAA tournament two straight years after winning a national title.It was not the way these Gators wanted to make history. But they vowed to get back on track in the NIT, and maybe bring home a championship.They knew they needed more from Calathes.The 6-foot-6 point guard averaged 11 points the last six games, about seven points lower than his season average. Some thought it was fatigue from playing more than 34 minutes a game this season. Others figured it was lingering effects of an illness that sapped his strength a few weeks ago.Either way, he looked just fine against the Dolphins. He was 8-of-10 shooting and added six rebounds and six assists.He got plenty of help, too.Parsons, who started 28 of the previous 33 games, came off the bench for the first time since early December. It might have been a much-needed change after scoring just nine points in the last four games and misfiring from just about everywhere.He hit five of his first six shots and had 13 points and nine rebounds at the break. He finished with his second double-double of the season. Parsons also brought some enthusiasm to the court, getting into a couple low-post tussles early in the game.Alex Tyus scored Florida's first seven points and finished with 13. Erving Walker, who replaced Parsons in the starting lineup, added 11. Even walk-ons Kyle McClanahan and Hudson Fricke made baskets.Florida shot 56 percent for the game and was 9-of-19 from behind the arc. Jacksonville shot 37 percent and missed 17 of 23 from behind the arc.The Dolphins' biggest problem was the slow start. They missed six of their first seven shots, got behind by double digits midway through the first half and never recovered.The team's leading scorer, Ben Smith, finished with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting.