For a half Middle Tennessee State gave Florida all they could handle, but after Billy Donovan made some halftime adjustments the Gators were able to pull away to a 66-45 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season.
The Gators held a 29-26 halftime edge after being held to 39 percent shooting in the first half and hitting only 4-15 from three point range. Will Yeguete led the way for the Gators in the first half with 10 points and 8 rebounds. The Gators were left with a small three guard lineup for much of the first half after Patric Young received his second foul with over 11 minutes to go and Donovan seated him on the bench. Inexplicably the Gators kept settling for off-balance three point shots as they had difficulty beating MTSU’s pressure defense.
At halftime, Donovan decided to change the way they ran their offense going with a high-low attack focusing on getting the ball into the paint rather than settling for outside shots. This approach worked wonders allowing them to take higher percentage shots but even more importantly getting the Gators to the free throw line. After only getting to the line only once in the first half, the Gators ended up with 12 trips to the line in the second half.
The focus on the getting the ball inside really seemed to open up the outside game and Kenny Boynton went off from the perimeter finishing with a game high 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist. Scottie Wilbekin, who had missed the first two games due to suspension, came in off the bench and played well finishing with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and an assist. With Mike Rosario struggling and turning the ball over frequently, Wilbekin played more in the second half allowing Boynton to move back into his usual role at shooting guard and it seemed to help his shooting touch.
Rosario chipped in with 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists while Patric Young finished with 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. Will Yeguete, who’s energy and effort in the first half kept the Gators out in front when they couldn’t buy a basket, finished with a double-double chipping in 11 points with 11 rebounds.
The Gators who shot only 39 percent in the first half finished the game at 46 percent from the field and only 7-22 on three pointers a 31 percent clip. They did struggle, however, from the line shooting only 62 percent hitting 17-27 free throws. They outrebounded the Blue Raiders 32-25 for the game and it was their second chance shots that really made the difference in the first half.
The Blue Raiders, who shot a meager 30 percent from the field for the game, were led once again by guard Marcos Knight who scored 12 points and had 8 rebounds. Shawn Jones had a solid game chipping in 10 points, the only other Blue Raider shooter in double digts, and JT Sutton scored 8 points. Both players contributed three rebounds a piece. They hit only 20 percent from three point range hitting 2-10.
Once again turnovers were an issue for the Gators particularly in the first half with 8 but they played a little better in the second and finished with 12 for the game. That was an improvement over the 20 they had in the last game against Wisconsin.
Overall, it was a good solid victory for the Gators. They got a chance to play away from home, and had to face adversity with MTSU playing tough in the first half. Next the Gators take on Savannah State in the O’Connell Center on Tuesday. Tip off is at 7 pm.