Gators graze Arizona

Florida's Kenny Boynton looks to pass during the first half against Arizona on Wednesday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 9:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 9:19 p.m.

It was far from a statement win, far from a pretty performance.

In fact, here is some of what No. 12 Florida overcame in its 78-72 overtime win against Arizona at the O’Connell Center:

A 15-for-32 shooting night from the free-throw line.

Leading scorers Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton going a combined 5-of-27 from the floor.

A questionable foul call against Florida forward Casey Prather with 3.9 seconds left that sent the game to overtime.

Yet behind a career-high 25 points from center Patric Young, the Gators (6-2) picked up their first signature win of the season.

The game could have ended in regulation, if not for a call from side judge Antinio Petty that sent the 10,531 at the O’Dome into a chorus of boos. With Arizona down 66-63, forward Solomon Hill tried to bring the ball up from his waist with 3.9 seconds left when Prather slapped his wrists. Petty ruled Hill was in the act of shooting beyond the 3-point line.

Hill made all three free throws to force overtime. But Florida regrouped in the extra session. Walker, who finished with 14 points and 5 assists, scored seven points in overtime. His steal and driving layup put Florida up 68-66. Two more free throws from Walker off a Will Yeguete steal extended UF’s lead in overtime to 73-69 with 2:02 left.

From there, Florida made 5 of its final 8 free-throw attempts to close out the game.

“I thought it was a game where our guys showed a lot of resiliency,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Up 3, five seconds to go, I think our guys probably could have come to the huddle disappointed, disenchanted that the game is going into overtime.

“I thought we showed some resiliency and fight. I know I was a little annoyed going into the overtime. But I think our guys kept a pretty good focus.”

Young helped the Gators get there, going 12-for-15 from the field. The 6-foot-9, 247-pounder also finished with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots for his third career double-double.

Arizona’s gameplan was to take Florida’s shooters out of the game, switching their bigger defenders and leaving Young down low in one-and-one situations against Arizona’s guards.

Young matched his previous career high of 14 points in the first half, going 7-for-9 from the floor.

“They just played me one-on-one tonight and I was lucky that my teammates we able to find me,” Young said. “They gave me the ball and I was able to finish a lot of shots.

“Maybe next game against Rider, the gameplan of ‘Let Patric get the ball in the post because he can’t score’, maybe they will check that off the list in the scouting reports. Maybe I’ll get double-teamed and our guards, who knows who will have a great game next.”

Despite Young’s big first half and 10 points off the bench from junior guard Mike Rosario, the Gators trailed 33-32 at halftime, in large part because they went 1-for-8 in the first half from the free-throw line.

It didn’t get much better early in the second half. At one point, the Gators were 2-for-14 from the free-throw line.

“I’ve never ever in my life seen 2-for-14 from the free-throw line,” Donovan said. “I mean I could go out right now and make 2-for-14 left-handed.”

When guard Nick Johnson hit a layup with 6:12 left to put Arizona up 59-52 with 6:12 left, Florida’s nine-game home winning streak appeared in jeopardy. But the Gators rallied back, holding Arizona to just two points over the next 5:37. Kenny Boynton cut Arizona’s lead to 59-55 with his lone 3-pointer. Then Walker hit a runner in the lane to cut the lead to 59-57.

Off a Yeguete steal, Boynton hit a driving layup to tie the score at 59 with 3:39 left.

Florida took a 62-61 lead when Young hit one of two free-throws with 2:06 left. After Arizona’s Kevin Parrom scored off a Hill steal to put the Wildcats up 63-62 with 35 seconds left, Florida was in need of another clutch play. Walker missed a 3-pointer, but Young was there for the offensive rebound and putback with 12.3 seconds left to put Florida back ahead 64-63.

The Gators outrebounded Arizona 46-36, finishing with 22 offensive rebounds.

“They killed us on the glass,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “They are in fantastic shape. They really play hard and they wore our team down.”

Afterwards, Donovan was critical of both Walker and Boynton’s shot selection, saying Young “could have had 45 points” if the Gators did a better job of recognizing how Arizona played them defensively.

“I didn’t think we played very intelligently,” Donovan said. “I think certainly Arizona had a lot to do with that. They were certainly well prepared and I thought the things that would cause us problems in the game certainly did cause us some problems. But our guys found a way to win the game.”

FREE THROWS: Erik Murphy returned to the lineup after missing three games with a knee bruise. Murphy didn’t start but finished with 3 points and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench. … The Gators shot 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) from 3-point line. … 2013 point guard recruit Kasey Hill, a standout at Montverde Academy outside Orlando, attended the game.

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