SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — After dropping out of the Top 25 this week, the Florida Gators looked like a team on the way up Saturday.
Devin Robinson had 15 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes to lead an onslaught by the Gators, who wrapped up a stretch of 11 consecutive away games to start the season by drubbing Charlotte 87-46 in the Orange Bowl Classic.
Florida had runs of 10-0, 14-1 and 10-0 en route to a lead of 36-11 barely 15 minutes into the game, and there was little letup in the second half. A 14-0 spurt made it 77-33 with seven minutes left, and the Gators posted their most lopsided win of the season.
The Gators (8-3) bounced back from consecutive losses to Duke and Florida State that knocked them out of the Top 25. Coach Mike White said he’s not worried about whether his team is ranked in December.
“I’m sure the guys care. Our fans I would think care,” White said. “But I’m not sure how well we handled it last go-around, and I don’t want that to be a focus. If we’re thinking about that every day, we’re taking time away from what’s most important, which is continuing to get better.”
The Gators took a step forward by outrebounding Charlotte 44-23 and scoring 24 more points in the paint, despite the absence of starting center John Egbunu (strained hamstring).
The 6-foot-8 Robinson led the Gators inside and was chosen the game’s most valuable player.
“He was really good,” White said. “He got some big-boy rebounds and played with some physicality.”
Charlotte (6-4) looked rusty playing only its second game in two weeks. The 49ers shot 14 for 51 for 28 percent, and their starters went 6 for 26.
“It was a really bad loss to a really good team,” coach Mark Price said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t play better. You have to play your best game against a team like that. They punched us in the mouth early, and we just never responded.”
Gators reserve Canyon Barry scored 16 points in 22 minutes. Chris Chiozza came off the bench to contribute nine points and five of the Gators’ 13 steals.
Charlotte’s Austin Ajukwa, eligible for the first time since transferring from Clemson, had 12 points and four steals in his season debut.
The Gators completed a long stretch of away games while their campus arena was being renovated.
“I thought that we handled it pretty good — road warriors to start the season,” swingman Kevarrius Hayes said. “It’s going to feel really great to be going to our home facility. I know the fans are going to love it.”
White said in some ways it seems like five years since his team played in Gainesville.
“You can spend time complaining, but it would be a waste of time,” he said. “We’ve had no drama, no negativity, no excuses.”
Florida improved to 16-2 in the Orange Bowl Classic. Florida State , which defeated Florida last Sunday, beat Manhattan 83-67 in the opening game.
“I feel we can beat Florida State,” Robinson said. “We can beat any team in the country if we play the way we’re supposed to play. If we play them again, I feel we can give them a run for their money.
ON THE MARK
Barry went 9 for 10 from the free throw line, all underhanded. He’s shooting 84 percent for the season.
The Gators will play in their renovated home for the first time Wednesday against Little Rock. Egbunu is questionable for that game, White said.
Charlotte returns home to play Maryland on Tuesday.
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