Mike Rosario led the way with 19 points tonight as the Florida Gators opened SEC play in grand fashion, downing the Georgia Bulldogs 77-44 in the O’Connell Center.
With the Gators smothering Georgia leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Gators jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the first eleven minutes. Behind Mike Rosario’s 9 points and Erik Murphy’s 8, the Gators lead 28-15 at the half as they shot 50% from the field and held Georgia to only 38%.
The Gators opened with their ninth different starting lineup this season because Murphy (ribs) and Will Yeguete (knee) were nursing injuries but it made no difference as the Gators cruised to their tenth straight victory over the Bulldogs in Gainesville.
The Gators used their usual brand of suffocating defense, pressuring Pope every time he touched the basketball, to create 19 turnovers which led to 27 points. For the game they held Georgia to 38% shooting from the field and only 10% from three point range while outrebounding the Bulldogs 26-25 and creating ten steals.
On offense, the Gators shot 52% from the field, 46% from three, and hit 87% of their free throws. For the first time in recent memory the Gators finished with an assist to turnover ratio of over +2 finishing with 17 assists and only 7 turnovers.
Rosario, who has been playing much better since he was benched in the second half of the UCF game, led all scorers with 19 points. Patric Young, who had trouble holding on the ball in the first half, played better in the second finishing with 11 points, three rebounds, and 2 assists.
Power forward Erik Murphy, who toughed it out in spite of bruised ribs suffered in practice last week, also hit for 11 points and 2 assists. Casey Prather, who started his first game this season filling in for Murphy and Will Yeguete, played another strong game finishing with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Scottie Wilbekin played well with 8 points, 2 assists, and 6 assists.
Kendall Caldwell-Pope, Georgia’s leading scorer, was the only Bulldog in double figures, scoring 11, well below his season average of just over 17 points per game.
The only downside for the Gators tonight was Kenny Boynton’s 2-8 performance from the field and 1-7 from three point range. After scoring a career high 28 Sunday against Yale on 8-10 shooting from three, Boynton’s performance was disappointing as shot after shot clanked off the rim.
Luckily the Gators didn’t need him tonight as Rosario and Prather really stepped up and Young had another consistent effort in the post.
The Gators moved to 11-2 (1-0 SEC) on the season as Georgia fell to 6-8 (0-1). The Gators travel to LSU on Saturday to take on the LSU Tigers. Tip off for that game is 4 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.