Gators throttle MVSU

Florida Gators guard Erving Walker drives past Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils guard Brent Arrington (11) at the Stephen C O'Connell center during the second half on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators defeated the Delta Devils 82-54.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, December 19, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 19, 2011 at 8:54 p.m.

Florida coach Billy Donovan used the dreaded J word — Jacksonville — shortly before his team’s matchup with Mississippi Valley State University.

Last season, on a 48-hour turnover following a big win against Kansas State in the Orange Bowl Classic, Florida lost to Jacksonville 78-71 in overtime.

But on Monday night, on a 48-hour turnaround after a big win against Texas A&M, No. 11 Florida overwhelmed Mississippi Valley State early in an 82-54 win before an announced 8,025 at the O’Connell Center.

The Gators jumped to an early 30-6 lead before coasting the rest of the game.

“Coach is tired of us being compared to last year’s team,” said freshman guard Bradley Beal. “He told us this was our opportunity to make a statement.”

Said Donovan: “I basically told our guys, ‘Same situation, how are we going to come out and respond?’ I thought we came out with good energy.”

Senior point guard Erving Walker led all five Florida starters in double figures with 19 points. Kenny Boynton added 16 points and Beal scored 13 points, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range.

Patric Young had 12 points and 8 rebounds and Erik Murphy finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds.

“We always want to play that way,” said Walker, when asked about the balanced scoring. “It just makes it easier for everyone, when the defense can’t key on one person.”

The balance helped Florida overcome the absence of guard Mike Rosario (strained back) and forward Cody Larson (step throat). Donovan said both were doubtful for Florida’s next game Thursday against Florida State.

Donovan said Rosario complained of pain shooting from his back down to his leg on Sunday morning after playing 12 minutes off the bench against Texas A&M.

“It’s something he’s been dealing with off an on and something we’re going to have to continue to keep an eye on,” Donovan said.

The Gators established Young early, getting the ball inside to him for two short jump-hook shots to start the game.

“I think our guys are getting a better understanding of how to get him the ball,” Donovan said. “They made a conscious effort to get him the ball inside and it opened things up for us on the perimeter.”

Florida went 6-of-13 from 3-point range to build a 46-22 halftime lead. Shortly before the start of the second half, Donovan told first year strength coach Preston Greene to have players do some sprints because he felt they looked sluggish in layup lines.

“I was embarrassed,” Walker said.

Donovan was concerned because the Gators didn’t come out with good energy to start the second half in their previous two games against Rider and Texas A&M.

“The first five minutes in the second half was better than it was against Texas A&M,” Donovan said.

Also, Florida went 20-of-24 from the free-throw line, shooting a season-high 83.3 percent.

“There were a lot of positives,” Donovan said.

FREE THROWS: Walk-on Jacob Kurtz, a 6-foot-5 freshman walk-on guard from Oviedo, made his first career appearance and scored 2 points on a pair of free-throws late in the game. It drew a loud ovation from the remaining O’Dome crowd. … Florida improved to 83-6 under Donovan when all five starters reach double figures. … Florida finished the game 10-21 from 3-point range and have now made 10 or more 3-pointers in nine of 11 games this season. … Walker has made 17 straight free throws. … Boynton (3-6 from 3-point range) moved past Matt Walsh for seventh place in UF history in 3-pointers made (193).

Boynton named SEC player of week

Boynton earned SEC player of the week honors following his 22-point performance against Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl Classic.

The 6-foot-2 guard from Pompano Beach went 7 of 16 from the field and 6 of 12 from 3-point range to help lead Florida to an 84-64 win over No. 22 Texas A&M. It was Florida’s first win over a ranked opponent this season.

Boynton entered Monday night’s game against Mississippi Valley State second in the SEC in scoring at 19 points per game.

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