Winthrop outscored Florida 34-21 in the second half on Sunday night in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in the BankAtlantic Center, and that was the good news.
If basketball coaches have nightmares about games, Winthrop's Randy Peele lived his in the first half, when the Gators shot the ball, passed it, rebounded it and took it away from the Eagles in rolling to a 42-point halftime lead on their way to a 74-45 victory.
The Gators (10-2) hit their first seven shots, including five 3-pointers, hit eight of their first 10, raced to a 22-0 lead and never looked back in handing the Eagles (1-10) their 10th consecutive loss.
Winthrop came out looking a step slow and shellshocked. The Eagles didn't handle the Gators' pressure defense and couldn't find the basket for almost seven minutes.
In the second half, Winthrop played a little smarter and a little better, and the Gators, with that huge lead, seemed to play with a little less interest, allowing the Eagles to make the final score at least respectable. Florida coach Billy Donovan went deep into his bench in the final minutes.
It's the first 10-game losing streak for Winthrop since the end of the 1993-94 season and is just two off the school record. Sunday's 45 points were the fewest since last year's 71-40 loss to Washington State in the NCAA tournament and the fewest in a regular-season game since a 65-44 loss at Kentucky in the 2003 season opener.
The Gators led 53-11 at halftime, as the Eagles hit just 5 of 25 shots in a half reminiscent of last year's 11-point second half against Washington State. The shots were quick and usually off one pass.
"In the first half," Peele said on his postgame radio show, "the offense looked like it hadn't been coached a day."
Meanwhile, the Gators were beyond sharp. Perhaps they were reminded that Winthrop had knocked off unbeaten Miami in this event a year ago. Whatever the reason, the Gators came out fired up and more than ready.
The Gators got 14 first-half points from Chandler Parsons, who hit 4 of 5 3-pointers, and pounded the Eagles 26-9 on the boards, more than enough numbers to ease to the win. Parson hit his first three 3-pointers while the Eagles were missing their first six shots.
It was 22-0 before Winthrop got its first bucket with 13:41 left in the half.
"We got off to a horrendous start, and I can't explain why," Peele said. "We didn't have enough energy to start the game. I don't know if we were in awe of Florida. Here we are playing Florida, which has won two national titles.
"But my gosh did they shoot the ball. In the first half, they're 61 percent on 3-pointers and the thing is they were deep 3s. Once we got down, it just snowballed, and I think we got discouraged."
Parsons led the balanced Gators with 17 points and six rebounds. Dan Werner, Alex Tyus and Walter Hodge added 10 each. And the Gators won the boards 43-29, the fifth time this season Winthrop has allowed an opponent 40 or more rebounds. Florida had 17 assists on 27 baskets.
Winthrop got 14 points from Cameron Stanley, but the 6-7 senior had zero rebounds. Charles Corbin hit 5 of 10 shots and scored 12 points. The Eagles had just nine assists and 16 turnovers, and starters Mantoris Robinson, Reggie Middleton and Andre Jones were a combined 5-of-23 from the floor.
But Peele was upbeat about the second half, even if the Gators took their foot off the gas in the final 20 minutes.
"The second half was better," Peele said. "We won the second half 34-21 and I saw lots of positives. Defensively, we were better. We were much more aggressive.
"And offensively, we were much more unselfish. That's what disappointed me in the first half. Florida was great offensively passing the ball in the first half."
The loss ended a brutal November and December that saw Winthrop play eight of its 11 games on the road, most of them against difficult opponents. The Eagles have yet to beat an NCAA Division I opponent this season. The teams they've played have a combined record of 73-32.
But they now get a week to prepare for the resumption of Big South Conference play on Saturday, when they host Liberty.
Peele thinks the Eagles will be competitive.
"I feel like we will," he said. "When we came out of (losses at) Radford and VMI, it didn't look like it. But certainly in the two weeks before Christmas I think this team can be competitive in the league.
"We've got to get back to that. Right now, we need practice in the worst way."