Gators cruise past Dolphins in Wilbekin's season debut


Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) goes in for a layup while defended by Jacksonville forward Kordario Fleming during the first half of UF's 86-60 win in Jacksonville, Fla., on Monday. (AP Photo)

Published: Monday, November 25, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 25, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE — Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin offered an apology for his off-court conduct shortly after No. 15 Florida’s 86-60 win at Jacksonville on Monday night.

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On the court, Wilbekin had little to apologize for. The 6-foot-2 Gainesville native sparked UF’s lopsided win with 12 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.

“I apologize for my actions over the summer. I apologize to the fans, I’ve already apologized to my teammates when it happened,” said Wilbekin, who didn’t disclose the reason for his suspension. “I’m just glad to put that stuff behind me. It was great to be out there playing with my teammates. I’m just looking forward to moving past the suspension. I’m not looking back.”

Wilbekin sat out six games (including UF’s preseason game vs. Florida Southern) for an undisclosed violation of team rules that occurred last June. It was Wilbekin’s second violation of team rules in the span of eight months. He also sat out UF’s first three games of the 2012-13 season.

On his third strike, Wilbekin said he doesn’t expect another disciplinary issue to arise.

“I’ve just learned the value of things, what an opportunity it is to play here at Florida,” Wilbekin said. “I think I’ve just matured, grown up a little bit and realized what I need to be focused on, doing the right things.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan didn’t waste timing working Wilbekin back into the flow with his teammates. Wilbekin started at point guard and helped the Gators race to an early 13-3 lead, dishing two assists on UF’s first six baskets.

“Even though Scottie hadn’t played the last five or six games, it never felt like for me that he and I weren’t on the same page,” Donovan said. “He knew everything that was going on, he was in practice every day. The only thing was it wasn’t translating on the court in games.

“He knows what I expect, what I want. He can get us in and out of offense.”

Wilbekin finished the game 5 of 9 from the floor and 2 of 2 from 3-point range. The senior point guard proved to be a steadying influence. Florida finished with 19 assists to 9 turnovers.

“He was hyped up to play tonight, but I think he did a great job of controlling his emotions and just settling down and playing the game,” Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II.

A pro-Gator crowd of 5,625 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena watched another balanced Florida scoring performance. Senior forward Casey Prather led five Florida scorers in double figures with 27 points, his third 20-point scoring performance in six games. Frazier added 17 points, going 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

Dorian Finney-Smith posted his first double-double at UF with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while senior center Patric Young, returning to his native Jacksonville, had 13 points and 3 rebounds for the No. 15 Gators (5-1).

Florida shot a season-high 59.6 percent from the field and 61.5 percent (8 of 13) from 3-point range.

The few negatives for the Gators were at the free-throw line (16 of 28, 57.1 percent) and on the boards. Florida barely out-rebounded Jacksonville 37-33 and gave up 16 offensive rebounds. Guard Jarvis Haywood led Jacksonville (2-4) with 16 points, while fellow guard Vince Martin added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Florida will need to clean up those issues during a tough four-game stretch against high major competition that begins Friday at home against Florida State. After FSU, Florida plays Dec. 2 at No. 13 Connecticut, Dec. 10 vs. No. 2 Kansas and Dec. 17 vs. No. 21 Memphis in New York City.

Donovan said he’s avoided doing heavy block-out rebounding drills in practice because he’s concerned about getting more of his banged-up squad injured.

“You hope that through coaching and showing film those guys would take it upon themselves, but we may need to go back to do some (block-out drills) because that needs to get rectified,” Donovan said. “I do think over the last three or four games we’ve done better on the glass. Now. with what’s coming in the future, we’re going to need to be a whole lot better than we are right now.”

FREE THROWS: Florida added to its list of walking wounded when sophomore guard DeVon Walker left the Jacksonville game with an apparent foot injury. “I don’t know how it happened,” Donovan said. “It appears to be some kind of ligament under the foot, on the side of his foot.” Donovan said Walker will undergo X-Rays on Tuesday and will know more about his status going forward later this week.

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