Florida started the game off slowly, but eventually pulled away in the second half to beat Middle Tennessee State, 79-59. The Gators used solid defense, points in the paint, and good free throw shooting to beat the Blue Raiders by 20 in a game that had a 40-20 pace 10 minutes in the first half. The lack of a point guard for the Gators showed up on the stat sheet, as they had only 10 assists on 25 field goals made. It also showed up in the first half with little ball movement and a stagnant offense.
Florida shot 36% in the first half with five players who had two fouls. The game was tightly officiated when at one point, with 10:09 to go in the first half, there were 13 fouls on both teams and 13 combined points, an 8-5 lead for the Gators. The halftime score was only 34-26 in favor of UF. Florida shot better in the second half to wind up at 50% from the field on the game. Middle Tennessee didn’t fare better, shooting only 42.6% for the game.
Six Gators scored double figures with Patric Young leading the way with 16 points, six rebounds – three offensive -, three assists (Florida’s leader), and two steals. Dorian Finney-Smith added 14 points and six rebounds off the bench and Will Yeguette chipped in a solid game with 10 points, including a three-pointer, and five rebounds. Neiko Hunter lead the way for the Blue Raiders with 14 points, five rebounds, one steal, and one block.
Florida used point guard play mostly from DeVon Walker, but Michael Frazier II, Finney-Smith, Prather, Billy Donovan, and even Young took the ball up the court. The true point guard-less lineup proved to be very good defensively as the size on the floor was something most teams can’t handle. Middle Tennessee was no different. With the 6’6″ Walker at the point, the Gators used a 2-3 zone to use that length and caused the Raiders problems. That defense forced 16 turnovers.
Florida snapped Middle Tennessee’s nation-leading 8-game road winning streak and continued their 19-game winning streak in the O’Connell Center. One stat that shouldn’t be overlooked is Florida’s success from the charity stripe. The Gators shot a season-high 83.3% from the free throw line. UF’s Frazier II may have said it best.
“It was going to be a grind-out game. He (Head Coach Billy Donovan) told us nothing was going to come easy.” – Michael Frazier II
Coach Donovan would not comment after the game on starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Donovan said if he continued to do what he was doing, then he would rejoin the team at some point this season. It doesn’t look good for Florida’s next game Monday night at Jacksonville University. Game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Florida for those of us in the Sunshine State. Tip off will be around 7 pm.
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