Florida ends Xavier's streak with 71-67 win
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.
CINCINNATI — Was it revenge? The new Alex Tyus hairdo? Or maybe just Florida thriving again as an underdog during this topsy-turvy season.
Whatever the reason, the Gators snapped Xavier's 30-game home winning streak with an important 71-67 win Friday over the Musketeers before 10,250 at the Cintas Center.
"That's a big win for us," said Florida point guard Erving Walker, who led four Florida players in double-figure scoring with 18 points. "We weren't worried about last year, trying to avenge it. We were just focused on getting the win versus a good team on their homecourt where they were very strong at. So we knew we had to come in here and be together as a team and we did that tonight."
Florida avenged a 76-64 loss to Xavier last season at the O'Connell Center.
"They have as much tradition as anywhere else in the country," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I knew that when we got up by 14 or 15, they'd make a run at us. They've got a lot of pride. It was a great win for our guys."
Kenny Boynton added 15 points and six assists, Vernon Macklin scored 14 points and Tyus chipped in with 12 points. Chandler Parsons had a strong floor game with five points, seven assists and 11 rebounds.
As a result, Florida (10-3) scored more than 70 points for the first time since Nov. 23 against FAU, snapping a string of seven straight games under 68 points. Turnovers (17) were still an issue, but the Gators made up for it by going 6-of-13 from 3-point range and 19-of-25 from the free-throw line.
"Our shot distribution was really, really good," Donovan said. "And that opened some things up for our perimeter guys."
Florida began the game establishing Tyus and Macklin inside. Tyus, who shaved off his dreadlocks over Christmas break, scored Florida's first six points.
"Whenever we do that, it helps everybody out," Tyus said. "It helps the perimeter, it helps us and it has the defense guessing on what we're supposed to do."
Macklin scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half before injuring his shoulder in the second half.
Macklin returned to the game after his injury but clearly wasn't 100 percent.
"I don't think it was dislocated but his shoulder was pushed in and you could see where it was distorted a little bit," Donovan said. "He was having problems. They told me he couldn't play but he said he wanted to try to play. I really felt when I put him back in there he was ineffective.
"I don't know where Vernon's at in terms of how long he'll be out or if he'll be out any length of time. He was cleared to go out and play and he just wasn't getting much done."
Freshman center Patric Young replaced Macklin down the stretch and played a big role, grabbing two of his five rebounds in the final four minutes.
"Patric, since we've come back from the holidays, he's had about four or five great days," Donovan said. "His attitude has been terrific. He's worked really hard and he's not a polished offensive player, but he's a physical presence and he bangs and he at least can put pressure on the other team's frontcourt. I thought he was physical and he gave us great, great minutes."
Florida out-rebounded Xavier 39-31, out-rebounding an opponent for the 12th time in 13 games this season.
"They come at you in waves," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "They are a very long team and their length gave us problems."
Xavier out-rebounded Florida 44-36 last season.
"Last year, physically, they outplayed us," Boynton said. "We wanted to come out and send a message."
Florida led 31-27 at halftime. After Mack called a timeout with Xavier trailing 37-34, the Gators took control of the game with a 13-1 run. Boynton, Walker and Parsons all made 3-pointers during the flurry, which extended Florida's lead to 50-35 with 13:21 remaining.
Florida shot a season-best 46.2 percent from 3-point range.
"We knocked down some shots," Boynton said. "Coach told us to go out and shoot the ball with confidence."
It was an adventure late. Florida led 60-47 with 4:04 left, but Xavier refused to go away, cutting UF's lead to 63-59 on a driving layup from Tu Holloway with 1:17 left. After a turnover from Florida freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, Xavier had a chance to cut the lead to two points, but Mark Lyons missed a layup on an in-bounds play with 1:13 left.
Holloway led Xavier (8-4) with 26 points, but Lyons struggled, going 1-of-11 from the floor.
"We couldn't get what we wanted," Holloway said. "And they stopped us."
Boynton, Wilbekin and Walker closed out the game by making eight of 10 free-throw attempts in the final 1:13.
"This was a big key in the game, our free throws," Boynton said. "They made a run and after that run it just came down to free throws. Me, Erving and Scottie knocked down our free throws down the stretch."
FREE THROWS: Freshman forward Casey Prather sat out with a bone bruise in his knee. ... It was a homecoming of sorts for Tyus, who played his senior year of high school at Harmony Christian Prep School in Cincinnati. But Tyus said he didn't have any friends stop by the game, "Most of them are off now to other colleges," Tyus said.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.