GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- Freshmen Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson did not have any first-game jitters.
Walsh scored 26 points and Roberson chipped in 13 to lead seventh-ranked Florida to a 76-55 rout of Louisiana Tech in the first round of the Preseason NIT.
Shorthanded with injuries to starting point guard Brett Nelson and Danish freshman Christian Drejer, Florida (1-0) turned to Walsh and Roberson, starting two freshmen for the first time since February 13, 1999.
Walsh scored 17 points in the first half and finished with five assists and four steals. He fell three points shy of matching the school freshman debut scoring record set by Vernon Delancy in 1980.
"For me, there is a newness with coaching Matt," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "The one thing about Matt, I thought for the most part, he let the game come to him."
"Boy, what an outstanding player for a freshman," Bulldogs coach Keith Richard said. "He did an outstanding job and he's going to be an excellent player."
Florida took command at the end of the first half. The Gators closed with an 18-6 run that was capped by a layup from Justin Hamilton off a feed from David Lee for a 40-26 advantage.
The Gators were supposed to struggle at the small forward position without Drejer, who many believe would have been a first-round NBA draft choice last year, and James White, who quit the team a month ago. Walsh filled the void by making 10-of-14 shots, playing all but four minutes.
"I played a lot more comfortably," Walsh said. "I felt good tonight. I never expected to start the first game of the year on ESPN. I just wanted to come in and do what I could to help the team."
Florida used a 10-1 run to open the second half and build a 50-27 cushion, rendering any hopes of a comeback moot. Louisiana Tech (0-1), which starts five seniors and is expected to contend in the Western Athletic Conference, never recovered.
Justin Hamilton finished with 21 points for Florida, which shot 58 percent (28-of-48) and held a slim 31-29 rebounding edge. David Lee grabbed 10 boards and Matt Bonner added five.
Hamilton made 7-of-10 shots and Roberson, a Saginaw, Michigan native who attended the same high school as former Temple star Mark Macon, was 5-of-14. The Gators converted 22 turnovers into 28 points.
"I thought Anthony Roberson played better in the second half," Donovan said. "We say some guys step up, and like I said at the exhibition game, with a lot of injuries, we can't wait on these freshmen."
"Somewhere in that first half, the turnovers starting coming and really swung the momentum of the game," Richard said. "To me, that was the story of the game, our inability to handle the ball in half-court offense against their half-court defense."
Antonio Meeking led Louisiana Tech with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The Bulldogs got a woeful effort from their backcourt as Lavelle Felton and Michael Wilder combined to make 1-of-13 shots for three points and eight turnovers.
The Gators will host Eastern Illinois on Thursday in the second round.