Florida bounces back with big win vs. Georgia

Florida center Patric Young (4) and guard Kenny Boynton (1) defend Georgia guard Connor Nolte (20) during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Tuesday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 8:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 10:59 p.m.

For as well as No. 19 Florida played defensively in its 70-48 win over Georgia at the O'Connell Center, junior guard Kenny Boynton thought the Gators could have played even better.


Three questions

1. Can Florida play better defensively after allowing Tennessee to shoot 51 percent from the floor in its last game?
The Gators came out with early defensive intensity and maintained it for most of the game. Florida held Georgia to 36.4 percent from the floor and 48 points. The Gators could have done a better job with defensive rebounding and grabbing loose balls in the second half. Georgia out-rebounded Florida 34-33, just the fourth time the Gators have been out-rebounded this season.

2. Can freshman guard Bradley Beal break out of a recent four-game slump?
Beal went 4 for 8 from the floor and 4 of 6 from 3-point range, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his third career double-double. He scored 13 of UF's 35 first-half points.

3. Can Florida take advantage of favorable frontcourt matchups inside and convert second-chance baskets?
Erik Murphy had an off night with 4 points and Patric Young had 8 points and 3 of UF's six turnovers. Georgia actually had more second-chance points than the Gators (12-7). But Florida played well enough defensively to win the game.

“We had a little slippage in the second half,” Boynton said. “I give us a B-minus overall. In the second half we gave up a lot of rebounds, a lot of loose balls.”

Florida (13-4, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from a poor defensive performance at Tennessee to hold Georgia to 36.4 percent from the field. The Gators gave up a season-high 51 percent from the field in its 67-56 loss to the Vols last Saturday.

“I was much more pleased with the effort on the (defensive) end of the floor, our level of awareness,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We were sharp, focused. And obviously we held them to 48 points. I think any time you hold a team to 48 points, you've done a good job defensively.”

Florida won its 15th straight home game, but will be looking to pick up its first road win Saturday at South Carolina. The Gators are 0-4 on the road this season.

“We've got to have a level of understanding of the commitment and focus it takes to win on the road,” Donovan said.

Boynton and freshman guard Bradley Beal led the Gators with 17 points apiece. Beal scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half, breaking out of a four-game shooting slump by making 4 of his first 5 3-point attempts.

Beal entered the game shooting just 29.8 percent from the field and 14.3 percent (2 of 14) from 3-point range over his last four games.

“Everybody has bad games, but I don't get really too involved in that,” Beal said. “My teammates always have faith in me and coach does as well.”

Beal hit back-to-back 3-pointers during an 8-0 run that put Florida ahead 33-12.

“In practice, he's figured out some things offensively in terms of when he should be looking to shoot and when he should be looking to pass,” Donovan said. “That's been something that's bogging him down a little bit because he's so unselfish. He had a much better feel and flow.”

Florida held Georgia scoreless for the first 4:44 of the game, building a quick 7-0 lead. The Gators held Georgia to just 37.5 percent from the field in the first half to build a 35-21 halftime lead.

“Coming off that game against Tennessee, we had a lot of question marks about our team, especially toughness,” said Florida sophomore center Patric Young. “We didn't play really good in the frontcourt, we didn't guard the ball well, we didn't play transition defense. We did that a lot better today, but we could have done an even better job, even though we held them to 48 points.”

Young finished with 8 points, 10 rebounds and a blocked shot in the second half that sent the 10,506 at the O'Connell Center into a frenzy.

Georgia grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and cut Florida's 25-point second half lead to 56-43 with a quick 8-0 run. But Beal restored order with a pair of free throws, and Boynton drained a 3-pointer to extend UF's lead to 61-45. From there, Florida closed out the game with a 9-3 run.

Center Nemanja Djurisic led Georgia (9-7, 0-2 SEC) with 14 points. Georgia was awful at the free-throw line, finishing 1 of 9 for the game.

“If you make your free throws, you can still put yourself in a position where you're down single-digits and can make some plays,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We just didn't make any of the easy plays.”

The Gators also got a lift from their bench. Junior guard Mike Rosario checked in during the first half and scored seven straight points to extend an early UF lead to 18-9. Will Yeguete had 6 points and Scottie Wilbekin chipped in 3 points. After Florida's bench was outscored 25-1 at Tennessee, the Gators outscored Georgia's bench 16-8.

“Will, I know what he's capable of. It's just a confidence thing of getting him the ball at the right place at the right time, just going up and making strong moves,” Young said. “And Mike, it was just a matter of time before he had a chance to break out and knock down some really good shots.”

Redshirt UF freshman forward Cody Larson even provided 9 valuable minutes, giving Young, Yeguete and junior forward Erik Murphy more of a breather.

“He's getting better,” Donovan said of Larson. “I'm getting more and more comfortable with him. He's had a week to 10 days of really good practices, and I felt like he really deserved and earned an opportunity to play quite a few minutes.”

FREE THROWS: Boynton converted his 10th career four-point play, hitting a 3-pointer as he was fouled by Georgia guard Gerald Robinson Jr. to put Florida up 41-23. … Forward Casey Prather (ankle injury) was available but did not play. … Beal also had 10 rebounds to finish with his third career double-double. … Former Gator center Dametri Hill (a.k.a. Da' Meat Hook), the starting center on UF's 1994 Final Four team, was at the game and recognized over the PA system.

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