CHARLESTON, SC – Keyontae Johnson had a career-high 22 points and Florida held off Saint Joseph’s 70-62 on Thursday at the Charleston Classic playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds for Florida (3-2), was kicked out after getting a flagrant two foul for what looked like an elbow to St. Joseph’s Taylor Funk. Blackshear played only three minutes in the opening half with two early fouls.
Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.
But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.
St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. But the Gators made four foul shots down the stretch.
Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.
The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.
Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.
Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.
St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.
Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.
Florida: The Gators were No. 6 in the preseason rankings, but have since fallen out with losses to Florida State and UConn. They’re hoping a strong showing in Charleston will move them back in the right direction.
Florida plays Miami in the Charleston Classic semifinals on Friday.
St. Joseph’s faces Missouri State Friday.