UF welcomes Missouri to SEC with 31-point win


Florida Gators center Erik Murphy dunks against the Missouri Tigers during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Missouri 83-52, giving head coach Billy Donovan his 400th career win at Florida.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.

It was a textbook 400th win at Florida for coach Billy Donovan.

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Florida Gators center Erik Murphy dunks against the Missouri Tigers during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Missouri 83-52, giving head coach Billy Donovan his 400th career win at Florida.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

A quick start. A sustained defensive effort for 40 minutes. Balanced scoring. A dominating performance against a ranked team before a sellout crowd at the O'Connell Center.

Before 12,597 at the O'Dome, No. 10 Florida left little doubt of which team is best in the Southeastern Conference through four league games. The Gators jumped ahead early and rarely let up in an 83-52 win over No. 17 Missouri.

“We got beat in all facets of the game today,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “Florida made all of the proper adjustments, decisions and plays throughout the course of the game.”

Florida (14-2, 4-0 SEC) won its sixth straight and has won its first four SEC games by an average margin of 26.8 points.

“Thirty-point victory against one of the best teams in the SEC, it was just a great game for us, a great team win,” Florida junior center Patric Young said. “I know nobody expected that. I'm sure a lot of teams thought they were going to come in here and they were going to upset us. I know they thought they were going to upset us. We prepared so well for this game and we really wanted it.”

Young rewarded Donovan for his 400th win with a postgame ice bath, dumping a Gatorade bucket filled with ice over his coach's back in the team locker room. Donovan improved to 400-160 in 17 seasons at UF and 435-180 overall.

“It was a pretty good one,” Donovan said. “They said I needed to see something and thankfully they didn't dump it on the carpet. Basketball coaches don't have that happen to them very often, and I'll tell you what, that was really, really cold.”

Donovan deflected the credit of his 400th UF win to his former and current players. Former UF point guard Jason Williams was among the fans in attendance, sitting courtside on Saturday.

“I don't look at them as my wins,” Donovan said. “I look at them as University of Florida wins.”

Erik Murphy led four Florida players in double figures with 15 points. Kenny Boynton added 14 points. Will Yeguete scored 13 points off the bench, and point guard Scottie Wilbekin had his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Wilbekin also was masterful defensively against Missouri point guard Phil Pressey. With Wilbekin as the primary defender, the Gators held Pressey to two points and six assists. Pressey, named SEC preseason player of the year in October, also had 10 of Missouri's 21 turnovers.

“My mindset is just to come out and play defense like I know how to play defense, treat every possession like it's the most important possession and not take plays off,” Wilbekin said.

Florida landed a quick hook early, jumping to a 15-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game. The Gators played with great energy from the opening tip, which Young tapped for Wilbekin for a breakaway layup to open the game.

“I was really surprised that on the tip, they were able to let Scottie get that easy bucket,” Young said. “I just tipped it to him and then I knew ‘Man, we have a run coming right here.' They were already rattled.”

The Gators sustained the lead, staying ahead 40-23 at the half despite committing 11 first-half turnovers. But Florida also forced 12 first-half turnovers. The difference? Florida scored 22 points off the first-half turnovers, while Missouri scored just four points off turnovers.

“The turnovers helped us get out in transition,” Donovan said. “The unfortunate part for us is we turned them over 12 times, we turned it over 11 times ourselves, so it was kind of a wash and we probably could have gained a little more out of that.”

In the second half, Florida maintained its double-digit advantage by keeping its intensity on defense. Florida held Missouri (13-4, 2-2 SEC) to 21.4 percent shooting from 3-point range in the second half and 32 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes.

Coming off a 68-47 win Thursday night at Texas A&M, the Gators improved to 15-1 in Thursday-Saturday SEC games since 2010. Donovan credited his team's ability to absorb scouting and the maturity to move on to the next game and not bask in success. With seven healthy players in its normal eight-player rotation (Florida junior forward Casey Prather remained out with an ankle sprain), Florida showed no signs of fatigue at home.

“We're not going to let excuses be the foundation of this team,” Young said. “We're going to work hard. We're going to prepare. Our coach is going to take care of our bodies, and we're going to do the best we can to win that game.”

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