Gators dominate Georgia
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 10:28 a.m.
Florida came into its Southeastern Conference opener against Georgia a banged-up bunch.
But that didn't stop the Gators from displaying their trademark defensive intensity against the rival Bulldogs.
Behind 19 points from senior guard Mike Rosario and another strong defensive effort, No. 11 Florida (11-2, 1-0 SEC) dismantled undermanned Georgia, 77-44, before 11,366 at the O'Connell Center.
Florida, which came into the game fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 52.7 points per game, held an opponent to under 50 points for the seventh time in 13 games this season. The Gators limited Georgia to just 38.9 percent shooting and held the Bulldogs to just 15 first-half points. Florida also scored 27 points off turnovers, many of which were forced from its press.
“Our defensive effort was very, very good,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But I'm somewhat cautioned in saying that because Georgia wasn't at full strength to be able to do what they normally do offensively.”
Georgia (6-8, 0-1 SEC) played without starting forward Donte Williams and reserve guard Kenny Gaines, who did not make the trip due to violation of team rules. But the Gators had their own issues. Starting forward Erik Murphy entered Wednesday doubtful with a broken rib and his expected replacement, Will Yeguete, had missed UF's previous two practices with tendinitis in his right knee.
Both Murphy and Yeguete came off the bench. Junior forward Casey Prather, making his first start of the season, scored UF's first six points of the game. Prather finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
Murphy wore a protective pad under his jersey and provided a spark, scoring 8 of his 11 points in the first half. The 6-foot-10 senior forward gave credit to trainer Dave “Duke” Werner for getting him ready to play. Murphy went 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
“Duke is the best in the business,” Murphy said. “I trusted him and did what he told me to do to get healthy for tonight.”
Murphy was forced to sit out his homecoming game Sunday at Yale. But he showed no signs of avoiding contact throughout the game. Murphy dove on the floor for a loose ball to help force a steal and put his body into Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on a foul to stop a breakaway layup.
“They felt alright,” Murphy said of his ribs. “They weren't too bad. Obviously, I didn't play in the Yale game that I would have liked to play in, but it was best to sit out and get ready for this game."
Donovan said Yeguete's tendinitis “has been an ongoing thing.” The 6-foot-7 junior forward was less effective off the bench, finishing with no points, a rebound and two turnovers in 14 minutes. Donovan gave both Yeguete and Murphy credit for playing through pain.
“Both of those guys are pretty tough guys,” Donovan said.
Florida delivered a quick first punch to Georgia, jumping to an 11-0 lead behind six points from Prather, a driving baseline layup by Rosario and a Murphy 3-pointer. The Gators held Georgia to just two points through the first seven minutes of the first half.
“That was important for us,” Rosario said. “We just wanted to keep putting the pedal to the metal.”
The Gators led 28-15 at halftime before breaking things open in the second half. Florida went inside early to Patric Young, who scored 9 of his 11 points in the second half.
After scoring its first 10 points in the second half inside, Florida went outside, hitting five straight 3-point attempts. Freshman Michael Frazier II made two of the 3-pointers during the flurry, which extended UF's lead to 53-26.
From there, the game became a laugher. Florida led by as many as 34 points late. Walk-on Jacob Kurtz got into the act, scoring five points in the closing minutes on a 3-pointer and driving layup.
“People don't realize he's one of the smartest guys on our team,” Donovan said.
Offensively, Florida finished the game shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent (12-of-26) from 3-point range. Donovan also was pleased with UF's 17-7 assist-to-turnover ratio. Starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin had six of UF's 17 assists.
“I thought we were relatively balanced and we are playing the game the right way,” Donovan said.
Florida improved to 12-5 in SEC openers under Donovan and 7-0 in SEC openers at home. In the process, the Gators made a statement to the rest of the league that they will not let up on the defensive end of the floor.
“That's what we stress every day in practice,” Rosario said. “We know as long as we keep working hard we have a chance to be a very good defensive team.”
FREE THROWS: Florida had 3,200 students show up for the Georgia game, its highest student attendance since 2007. … After a 28-point performance against Yale, senior guard Kenny Boynton ended up with just 7 points and was 1-of-7 from 3-point range. … Young finished the game with four of UF's six blocked shots. … Florida held Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a season-low 11 points.