Florida basketball cruises in preseason opener


Florida's Will Yeguete, left, and Chandler Parsons, right, chase down a loose ball against Florida Tech forward Justin Sedlak during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Thursday.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 at 12:32 a.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan used his team’s preseason opener against Florida Tech to find out more about his heralded freshman class.

UF’s first-year players didn’t disappoint in a 92-58 win before 7,784 Thursday night at the O’Connell Center.

Earlier in the day, Florida received a preseason ranking of No. 9 in the AP poll. Picked as the preseason favorites to win the Southeastern Conference, Florida won its 19 straight exhibition game.

Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led all scorers with 24 points in 25 minutes, going 4-of-6 from 3-point range. But another UF player of note was freshman swingman Casey Prather, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

“You can see his athletic ability and like the rest of the guys, I think he has room to get better,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I think he’s gotta be a guy that has got to continue to make defending and rebounding his first priority.”

Prather, a 6-foot-6 forward from Jackson, Tenn., has drawn the inevitable comparisons to another former Gator swingman from Tennessee — Corey Brewer.

“At first I was a little nervous,” Prather said of his debut. “I just wanted to show my defensive ability.”

It was more of a bull-in-a-china-shop debut for freshman McDonald’s All-American center Patric Young. Playing against a smaller Florida Tech frontline, the 245-pound Young had three points, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 20 minutes before fouling out late in the second half.

Young’s highlight came late in the first half when he blocked a Florida Tech shot on a two-on-one fast break.

“We got 20 minutes out of him, and to be honest with you, I thought he would have fouled out in 10,” Donovan said. “He’s got that kind of energy. He took some charges. He, (Cody) Larson, (Will) Yeguete, they all physically competed. I would rather have that aggressiveness and try to rein a guy in a little bit.”

Indeed, on his first possession of the game, Young took a charge.

“I came out a little nervous and anxious, but I knew if I just ran the floor and played hard then things would just flow and things did once I got out there,” Young said. “I got pretty tired because I was playing so hard the whole time.”

Freshman forward Will Yeguete had six points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Scottie Wilbekin looked comfortable running the point with two assists and two steals in five first-half minutes before straining his neck. Wilbekin was held out the second half for precautionary reasons. Larson added one point and one rebound in 15 minutes.

The Gators attacked the basket throughout the first half, building a 53-34 halftime lead despite shooting 0-for-5 from 3-point range. In the second half, Boynton heated up, making three straight 3-point attempts.

Boynton, who worked with a shooting coach over the summer, improved to 14-for-23 from 3-point range in his career in exhibition games.

“I’ve always been a rhythm guy,” Boynton said. “I really wanted to focus in on that first shot of the second half and I was able to get on a roll a little bit.”

Chandler Parsons added 15 points and four assists for Florida, while Alex Tyus had 14 points in 12 minutes.

It wasn’t a flawless debut for the Gators. Florida was ragged on the fast break during some early stretches, committing 11 of its 19 turnovers in the first half. The Gators also had some defensive breakdowns, allowing Florida Tech to shoot 41.2 percent from the floor.

On the plus side defensively, Florida took seven charges.

“I can’t ever remember us taking that many charges in the game,” Donovan said.

Florida will play its next preseason game Nov. 3 against Georgetown (Ky.) College before opening the season Nov. 12 against UNC-Wilmington.

“We know we’re a good team, but we can take it to the next level if we play with more intensity on the defensive end of the floor,” Boynton said. “I think we got a little tired and let that affect us.”

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