Boynton, Wilbekin leads Gators past Knights
Published: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.
Florida junior forward Casey Prather wore a bandage over his lower lip after taking yet another blow to the head Friday while mixing it up inside.
But Prather was all smiles following UF’s 79-66 win over Central Florida before 10,195 at the O’Connell Center. After sitting out Florida’s first four games of the season with post-concussion symptoms, the 6-foot-6 Prather keyed Florida’s strong bench effort in his season debut.
No. 7 Florida (5-0) outscored UCF 28-0 off the bench. Florida junior guard Scottie Wilbekin scored a career-high 17 points off the bench while Prather added eight points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in 13 minutes.
“They gave us a lot of energy today,” said Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton, who led the Gators with 24 points. “I’m happy for Casey to finally be back. Scottie, he did a great job. The scouting report, they (UCF) went under on screens, he just did a good job knocking down more 3s tonight.”
Prather, who suffered two concussions in preseason practices, had his lower lip stitched up in the locker room at halftime. His tooth punctured his lower lip after taking an inadvertent slap to the face on a drive to the basket. In the second half, Prather scored all eight of his points, including a highlight, reverse dunk on a drive along the baseline.
“It was amazing, especially after not being able to play for a while,” Prather said. “Just the energy and the crowd, it was fun.”
Said Wilbekin: “That baseline dunk, that’s what we love him for. He gets the whole team excited when he does things like that.”
Wilbekin surpassed his previous career high of 11 points by halftime, scoring 13 points in the first half on 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. He said Florida coach Billy Donovan prodded him to shoot more after passing up wide-open looks off screens against Savannah State.
“He told me after the Savannah State game if they are leaving me open like that, I can’t not be aggressive,” Wilbekin said. “So I tried to come out there and be aggressive.”
With Wilbekin and Prather back, Donovan now has a full complement of players to develop a deeper rotation of eight to nine players. Donovan said he will keep tinkering with that rotation in practice to prepare for UF’s next game Thursday night at the O-Dome against Marquette in the SEC-Big East Challenge.
“I think Billy has got a team that can make a deep run in the (NCAA) tournament,” UCF coach Donnie Jones said. “He’s got a lot of weapons. Somebody is not having a great night like (Mike) Rosario tonight, it wasn’t his night. Scottie Wilbekin comes in or Casey Prather comes in. He’s got so many pieces where he can match up with you.”
Florida missed its first nine shots, but played strong enough defensively in the first half to build a 42-24 halftime lead. Wilbekin had three first-half steals, and Florida scored 14 points off UCF’s 12 first-half turnovers.
The same couldn’t be said for early in the second half. UCF started the second half on an 11-0 run, cutting Florida’s lead to 42-35 on a 3-pointer by Tristan Spurlock with 17:29 left in the second half.
During the run, Florida left several UCF shooters wide open on the perimeter.
“We got comfortable,” Boynton said. “Coach preaches that to us in practice, and you know at halftime, he even said, ‘Let’s come out with intensity.’ That’s on us not getting on shooters. We just have to do a better job at that.”
Florida junior center Patric Young stopped the bleeding with a three-point play inside, hitting a short hook shot as he was fouled by UCF center Keith Clanton to put UF up 45-35. The Gators kept the lead in double digits for most of the rest of the game.
UCF finished the game 11-of-20 from 3-point range. Florida, which came into the game allowing 44 points per game, gave up a season-high 66 points. Sophomore guard Kasey Wilson led UCF (3-2) with 20 points, going 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
“I know there has been a lot of talk of what our defense has done the first four games, but I really believe we have a long, long way to go defensively,” Donovan said. “I think in the second half, if you look at the numbers, they shoot 57 percent from the field and 80 (percent) from 3. And I didn’t think we were aware, alert, rotating. I thought our effort (defensively) in the first half compared to the second half was night and day.”
FREE THROWS: Boynton said he felt 100 percent after returning from a sprained ankle he suffered Tuesday. … Donovan improved to 10-2 against former assistant coaches. Jones worked under Donovan at Marshall and UF from 1994-2007. “I don’t like playing Donnie, but it’s good for both schools,” Donovan said. Asked if he could see continuing the UF-UCF series, Donovan said. “I don’t know. (Athletic director) Jeremy (Foley) has talked about us playing the Lakers next season, with some of the ideas for our non-conference schedule.” … Florida senior guard Mike Rosario nearly had as many turnovers (three) as points (four) and was pulled early in the second half after an ill-advised alley-oop attempt to Young that sailed into the stands. “I’m getting to the point where I can’t deal with the turnovers,” Donovan said. … Former Florida point guard Jason Williams and former NBA and Fresno State guard Chris Herren sat courtside during the game. Herren, who documented his battles with addiction in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series “Unguarded,” helped mentor and work out with Erik Murphy in the summer of 2011. “Very proud of him, for what he is doing on and off the court,” Herren said.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.