Gators get balanced win over MTSU
Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 9:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 9:50 p.m.
Shortly after No. 16 Florida downed Middle Tennessee State 79-59 at the O'Connell Center, sophomore guard DeVon Walker was asked about being one of UF's six scorers in double figures.
No. 16 Florida (4-1) at Jacksonville (1-3), 7 p.m.
“Everybody's eating bread,” Walker said. “That's what I call it. Everybody is getting points, everybody is having fun, everybody's going well.”
In their first test without a true point guard Thursday night, the Gators (4-1) relied on balance. Walker, Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier II all ran the point during stretches in place of injured point guard Kasey Hill and suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Florida coach Billy Donovan would not confirm if Wilbekin will return for UF's next game Monday night at Jacksonville.
“He's moving in the right direction,” Donovan said. “I'm proud of him, but I'm not prepared to make any statement he's coming back to our team.”
Without Hill and Wilbekin, Florida managed just two first-half assists, but led 34-26 thanks to some early inside production from Patric Young and Will Yeguete. Young scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the first half and Yeguete added 7 points.
“I was really proud of Patric tonight,” Donovan said. “I felt like he set the tone for us.”
The Gators shot just 36 percent from the field in the first half, but their saving grace was at the foul line. Florida went 15 for 18 from the free-throw line in the first half and 25 of 30 (83.3 percent) for the game.
“I thought the first half we got really stagnant,” Donovan said. “The ball didn't move as well at it did in the second half. I thought our kids made some adjustments. We got too bogged down trying to figure out their 1-3-1 zone.”
In the second half, Florida was able to spread the ball around and spread the wealth. Finney-Smith added 14 points and six rebounds for the Gators, while Frazier, making his second career start in place of Hill, had 13 points. Forward Casey Prather, who played just four minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, scored all 11 points in the second half. Walker had 10 points, going 2 of 4 from 3-point range and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line.
The Gators finished the game with 10 assists to 12 turnovers.
“That's how we want to play, everybody scoring and having options,” Yeguete said. “I think we did a really good job moving the ball today and had everyone scoring.”
FREE THROWS: Earlier Thursday, Florida announced its 2014 signing class, which includes 5-10 point guard Chris Chiozza (Memphis-White Station), 6-5 shooting guard Brandone Francis and 6-8 forward Devin Robinson (Chesterfield, Va.-Christchurch School). Scout.com rates the class 10th best in the nation. … Walk-on Billy Donovan (St. Francis High, Gainesville) scored his first two points of the season on a pair of free throws and had a steal in 7 minutes off the bench. … The announced crowd was 9,020.