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November 21, 2013

Gators rebound nicely in 79-59 win



There's no getting around how ugly the start of Thursday night's game between No. 16 Florida and Middle Tennessee State. It could have been called Will Muschamp basketball or the free-throw show or a clank fest, but - per usual - Billy Donovan put it best.

"It was painful to watch," Donovan said. "I'm just calling it like it was. It was painful."

When Michael Frazier II went to the free-throw line for two shots at the 9:54 mark of the first half, the Gators and Blue Raiders had combined for 13 points and 14 fouls. Playing without a point guard, Florida ran the floor offensively with all the rhythm of a middle school orchestra. At halftime, the Gators had two assists - a statistic that baffled Donovan.

Luckily for the Gators - and spectators - things changed.

Florida didn't let five different players, including 6-foot-8 forward Dorian Finney-Smith, seeing time at point guard affect it for long. Already possessing an eight-point halftime lead, the Gators got off to a hot start in the second half with an 18-6 run that built a 20-point lead they would maintain off and on until the game's end.

"Once we go comfortable, the second half went well," Finney-Smith said. "We started moving the ball. At first, we were holding the ball, waiting on screens. We got the ball hopping and we got some drives and kicks, started making some shots."

The shots were sinking. After going 9 for 25 from the field in the first half, Florida made 16 of 25 in the second half. Six different players scored in double digits, led by center Patric Young with 16 points. MTSU was called for 25 fouls, and Florida was able to go 25 of 30 from the free-throw line.

Even Young went 6 for 8.

"It was a solid performance," Young said. "I wish I would have rebounded a little better. Free throws were OK. I want to make them all."

"He set the tone," Donovan said. "He was active. He rebounded. He made his free throws tonight. I was really proud of the way he played. I was proud of the way our frontcourt played."

Finney-Smith provided quite the complement, adding 14 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench.

It wasn't just offense that turned the tide. Defense led the way for a shorthanded Florida squad that could have easily been forced into a close game against a respectable MTSU team as it dealt with injuries and suspensions.

"As disappointed as I was coming out of North Florida, our opener, I think I made the comment that we were light years away from being a good defensive team," Donovan said, "we're at least moving in a positive direction. I think for 40 minutes, that's the best defense we've played this year. Especially with low numbers, we were short on subs. I thought we were really committed at that end of the floor."

-- WILBEKIN WATCH --

Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin remains suspended for an ongoing punishment that stems from the offseason. Donovan was unwilling to comment on his status Thursday night. Florida's next game is Monday at Jacksonville.

"He still has stuff he has to do, so I'm not going to comment on any of those things here right now," he said. "If we continues to do what he has been doing, which is moving in the right direction, I'm proud of him. But I'm not prepared to make any statement that he's coming back to this team."

-- HEAVY MINUTES --

When Casey Prather fell into early foul trouble, Florida lost its most dynamic offensive star of the past few weeks and was forced to spread minutes around to various areas. It was further impacted by an injury-slowed Eli Carter only seeing three minutes.

Frazier played a team-high 36 minutes, going 5 for 9 from the field for 13 points. Sophomore guard DeVon Walker got a steady dose as well, playing 32 minutes - second-most on the team - and scoring 10 points on 2-for-4 shooting from the 3-point line.

"I thought we balanced them pretty well," Donovan said. "Frazier probably played too many. Maybe I could have thrown Billy in there a little more. If Prather doesn't have the fouls, that might eliminate some of those issues."

Billy is, of course, Billy Donovan, who saw seven minutes to provide a breather to Florida's scholarship players. He scored two points.


Official Basketball Box Score
Middle Tennessee vs Florida
11/21/13 7:30 p.m. at Stephen C. O'Connell Center


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
VISITORS: Middle Tennessee 4-1
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
01 HUNTER, Neiko....... f  5-11   0-1    4-6    3  2  5   1  14  0  2  1  1  34
12 JONES, Shawn........ f  2-5    0-0    2-2    0  3  3   3   6  1  2  1  1  20
05 KNIGHT, Tweety...... g  2-2    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   4   4  1  3  0  3  24
10 RAYMOND, Jaqawn..... g  4-11   4-9    1-4    1  3  4   1  13  0  1  1  1  33
24 HAMMONDS, Kerry..... g  1-7    1-5    2-2    0  1  1   3   5  3  3  0  0  26
00 GIBSON, Zane........    0-0    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   1   0  1  0  0  0   8
02 WORTHAM, Eric.......    4-6    1-3    2-2    1  0  1   4  11  0  0  0  0  14
03 PHILLIPS, Joshua....    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  4  4   0   0  1  1  1  0   9
13 JOHNSON, Blake......    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0  0  0  0  0   1
21 WALKER, Torin.......    1-1    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   2  0  2  0  0   5
30 UPSHAW, Reggie......    1-3    0-1    2-2    0  4  4   3   4  1  0  0  0  17
42 ROZIER, Jacquez.....    0-1    0-0    0-0    0  1  1   3   0  0  1  0  0   9
   TEAM................                         2     2             1
   Totals..............   20-47   6-19  13-18   8 18 26  25  59  8 16  4  6 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  8-20 40.0%   2nd Half: 12-27 44.4%   Game: 42.6%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  1-8  12.5%   2nd Half:  5-11 45.5%   Game: 31.6%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half:  9-14 64.3%   2nd Half:  4-4  100 %   Game: 72.2%    3


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HOME TEAM: Florida 4-1
                          TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
15 Yeguete, Will....... f  4-5    1-1    1-3    1  4  5   3  10  1  2  0  1  24
24 Prather, Casey...... f  4-5    0-0    3-4    0  4  4   2  11  2  3  0  2  19
04 Young, Patric....... c  5-9    0-0    6-8    3  3  6   2  16  3  2  0  2  25
20 Frazier, Michael.... g  5-9    1-3    2-2    0  2  2   1  13  2  2  0  0  36
25 Walker, DeVon....... g  2-5    2-4    4-4    0  1  1   2  10  1  0  0  2  32
01 Carter, Eli.........    0-2    0-0    0-0    2  0  2   2   0  0  0  0  0   3
10 Finney-Smith, Dorian    4-9    0-2    6-6    2  4  6   3  14  1  3  0  0  26
11 Edwards, Lexx.......    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   1   0  0  0  0  0   1
30 Kurtz, Jacob........    1-4    0-0    1-1    1  1  2   2   3  0  0  0  1  27
42 Donovan, Billy......    0-2    0-2    2-2    0  0  0   0   2  0  0  0  1   7
   TEAM................                         1  2  3
   Totals..............   25-50   4-12  25-30  10 21 31  18  79 10 12  0  9 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  9-25 36.0%   2nd Half: 16-25 64.0%   Game: 50.0%  DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  1-5  20.0%   2nd Half:  3-7  42.9%   Game: 33.3%   REBS
F Throw % 1st Half: 15-18 83.3%   2nd Half: 10-12 83.3%   Game: 83.3%    2


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Officials: Mike Nance, Willi CJ Washington, Marc Ellard
Technical fouls: Middle Tennessee-None. Florida-None.
Attendance: 9020
Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
Middle Tennessee..............   26   33  -   59
Florida.......................   34   45  -   79

Points in the paint-MT 20,UF 34. Points off turnovers-MT 17,UF 15.
2nd chance points-MT 7,UF 8. Fast break points-MT 4,UF 6.
Bench points-MT 17,UF 19. Score tied-2 times. Lead changed-1 time.
Last FG-MT 2nd-01:30, UF 2nd-01:47.
Largest lead-MT by 2 1st-17:34, UF by 24 2nd-01:47.


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