No. 11 Gators win third straight over Seminoles


Florida center Erik Murphy drives around Florida State forward Xavier Gibson during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 9:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 11:35 p.m.

There was no holiday letdown. No dropoff in intensity.

Methodically, No. 11 Florida used balanced scoring and big plays on defense to beat rival Florida State 82-64 before 11,125 at the O'Connell Center.

The Gators (10-2) have won five straight heading into the Christmas holiday break, including previous wins over Arizona and Texas A&M. Florida next plays Dec. 29 at Rutgers.

“You want to go into the holidays like that,” Florida junior guard Kenny Boynton said. “Our goal after the Syracuse loss was to win everything going into the holidays. I think we did a great job doing it.”




Freshman guard Bradley Beal led five Florida scorers in double figures with 21 points. But the play most will remember from that game was sophomore center Patric Young's block/steal of FSU center Bernard James. As James went up for the dunk, Young corralled the ball with his left hand before it reached the rim.

“I just saw him go for the (pick and) roll and I was able to time it right,” Young said. “I didn't think I was going to rip it down. It was just perfect. It came right in my hand, and I got really excited after that.”

Said Florida coach Billy Donovan: “I see it every day. He's got a great motor. He's got great energy. He's really, really athletic and that's a heck of a block because it probably was one of those blocks where James thought he had an easy two-point shot, and Pat kinda came out of nowhere.”

At that time, the Gators led 42-36 with 14:58 remaining. On the next offensive series, Young had a dunk off a Will Yeguete offensive rebound, which started an 11-2 run.

During the run, Beal continued to display his offensive assertiveness, scoring on a dunk on a drive along the baseline and a 3-pointer to extend UF's lead to 53-38 with 12:05 remaining.

“I'm feeling really comfortable now,” said Beal, who went 4-for-8 from 3-point range. “I'm not using being a freshman as an excuse anymore. I'm just focusing on just playing within the flow of the game and letting the game come to me.”

Young finished with 15 points for Florida. Boynton had 14 points, Erik Murphy had 12 points, and point guard Erving Walker finished with 11 points and 7 assists.

Florida scored more than 70 points against FSU (8-4) for the first time since beating the Seminoles 74-66 in 2005.

“This Florida team is at least the most difficult team for us to prepare for since I've been at Florida State,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who fell to 4-7 against UF. “They play so well together. They execute their system almost to perfection. You have very little room for error.”

Florida overcame some inconsistent offensive stretches to lead 32-24 at halftime. The Gators jumped to an early 14-2 lead, as FSU made just 1 of its first 11 shot attempts. But Florida started the game 0 of 7 from the free-throw line and were just 3 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half.

“I thought that our focus wasn't where it needed to be offensively in the first half,” Donovan said.

But Florida maintained its defensive intensity throughout the game. The Gators mixed in traps and the full-court press, scoring 25 points off 19 FSU turnovers. Florida and FSU also finished even in rebounding at 35 apiece.

The Gators held the Seminoles to 40.7 percent shooting from the floor.

“We wanted to come in with the mind-set that we are the best defensive team out here,” Young said. “We don't get much credit for our defense because our offense has been so great. And we just wanted to show them from the get-go that they weren't going to get anything easy, that we were going to be really physical. We were going to pressure them, make them turn the ball over.”

With Mike Rosario out for the second straight game with a back injury, Florida also got a strong game off the bench from sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin. The Gainesville native finished with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 assist.

“If you look at the first half and the second half, we went on runs when he was on the floor and a lot of it was ignited with his defense,” Donovan said.

FREE THROWS: Donovan said Rosario remains doubtful for his homecoming game Dec. 29 at Rutgers. “I'm concerned from the standpoint that he's going home and not going to have any rehab for Christmas,” Donovan said. … Cody Larson (strep throat) returned to action but played just the closing minute of the game. … Florida finished the game 10 of 28 (35.7 percent) from 3-point range, making 10 3-pointers for the 10th time in 12 games. … FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said even with the ACC going to 18 games next season, he wants to keep playing Florida every year. “It's great for your RPI,” Hamilton said. … After going 5 for 12 from the free-throw line in the first half, Florida went 11 for 12 from the line in the second half to finish 16-for-24 (66.7 percent) for the game.


Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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