Middle Tennessee vs Florida

No. 16 UF's dominant second half dooms Middle Tennessee

CBSSports.com wire reports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan said his team was ''painful to watch'' early.

That was somewhat expected, because the Gators played without a true point guard for the first time in years.

But once Donovan simplified things at halftime, No. 16 Florida pulled away from Middle Tennessee and coasted to a 79-59 victory Thursday night.

Patric Young led the way with 16 points, one of six Florida players in double figures. Without point guards Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill, the Gators had nearly as many guys handling the ball.

''With a limited bench, no point guard and playing against a good team, I thought our defense was constant the whole entire game and I thought our offense was really good in the second half,'' Donovan said. ''We were really balanced. ... We did a lot of different things.''

The Gators won their 19th consecutive game at home, this one thanks to a dominant start to the second half.

Florida (4-1) came out of the locker room and outscored the Blue Raiders 18-6 over the first 5 1/2 minutes. DeVon Walker got the run started with a 3-pointer, and then the Gators went inside.

Young had a dunk, and Jacob Kurtz and Dorian Finney-Smith followed with three-point plays. Leading scorer Casey Prather, who played just four minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, made two free throws and added a three-point play. In between, he found Michael Frazier II on the break for a layup.

Florida used the spurt to turn a single-digit lead into a 20-point game - and the Gators mostly kept it that way the rest of the night.

Neiko Hunter led Middle Tennessee (4-1) with 14 points. Jaqawn Raymond (13) and Eric Wortham (11) also finished in double figures.

The biggest issue for the Blue Raiders was that key starters Tweety Knight, Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds combined for 15 points and eight turnovers.

''You've got to get your core guys to play when you're playing a top team on the road,'' Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said. ''We just got nothing out of them. All three of those guys have been playing well for us, but when you get on the road here, those guys have to play.''

Finney-Smith scored 14 points for the Gators. Frazier (13), Prather (11), Will Yeguete (10) and Walker (10) also reached double figures.

The Gators won their 20th consecutive game against non-conference opponents. The latest one was notable because of the point guard situation.

''Not having a point guard definitely raised our sense of aggressiveness because we were like a wounded animal,'' Frazier said. ''We don't have all our pieces, so we had to go in there and be aggressive and fight.''

Wilbekin sat out an exhibition game and the first five regular-season contests because of an indefinite suspension. Hill, a freshman averaging 10.3 points, could be out a month with a high ankle sprain. Hill badly twisted his left ankle in Tuesday's win against Southern. He wore a protective boot on his foot and watched from the bench Thursday.

Donovan offered no update on how long Wilbekin will be out.

''He still has stuff he has to do,'' Donovan said. ''I'm proud of him, but I'm not prepared to make any statement that he's coming back to our team.''

Without Wilbekin and Hill, Florida used Walker, Frazier, Prather, Finney-Smith and others to handle the ball.

It didn't work very well early.

The Gators managed just two assists in the first 20 minutes, part of an ugly half that also included 32 free throws, 26 fouls and only 17 baskets.

''We were stagnant,'' Donovan said. ''It was painful to watch.''

The teams combined for five assists. Florida led 34-26 thanks to making 15 of 18 free throws.

It didn't help Florida that Finney-Smith, Prather, Walker and Eli Carter picked up two fouls each -- most of them early. The Gators played with Billy Donovan, the coach's son, and fellow walk-on Kurtz down the stretch.

But things changed after the break. With more guys available, Florida made the most of its size advantage -- and showed it didn't need a true point guard. Of course, that could change with an upcoming stretch against Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis.

''We've just got to get the ball past half and then get in our offense,'' Finney-Smith said. ''Once we get in our offense, everybody knows what we're doing. Once we got comfortable, things went well.''

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
Middle Tennessee (4-1)263359
Florida #16 (4-1) «344579
MTSU:N. Hunter 14 Pts
MTSU:N. Hunter 5 Reb
MTSU:K. Hammonds II 3 Ast
FLA:P. Young 16 Pts
FLA:P. Young 6 Reb
FLA:P. Young 3 Ast

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Middle TennesseeFlorida
Neiko Hunter
Patric Young
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
N. Hunter, F345-114-650114
J. Raymond, G334-111-440113
K. Hammonds II, G-F261-72-21335
T. Knight, G242-20-00144
S. Jones, F202-52-23136
R. Upshaw Jr., F171-32-24134
E. Wortham, Jr., G144-62-210411
J. Rozier, F90-10-01030
J. Phillips, F90-00-04100
Z. Gibson, G80-00-01110
T. Walker, C51-10-00012
B. Johnson, G10-00-00010
G. Gibson, GDid Not Play
T. Chilton, GDid Not Play
R. Ross, GDid Not Play
M. Tarrance, GDid Not Play
Totals 20-4713-182482459
Florida Gators
M. Frazier II, G365-102-222113
D. Walker, G-F322-54-411210
P. Young, C255-96-863216
W. Yeguete, F244-51-351310
C. Prather, F194-53-442211
J. Kurtz, F271-41-12023
D. Finney-Smith, F264-96-661314
B. Donovan, G70-22-20002
E. Carter, G30-20-02020
L. Edwards, F10-00-00010
S. Wilbekin, GDid Not Play
D. Harris, F-CDid Not Play
D. Graham, GDid Not Play
K. Hill, GDid Not Play
Totals 25-5125-3028101879
Conference USA
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Middle Tenn.17-131-535
La. Tech14-423-10117
Old Dominion12-619-12136
Western Ky.9-915-17226
UT-San Antonio8-1014-19264
So. Miss6-129-22331
North Texas2-168-22339

TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
S. Carolina12-626-1143
Ole Miss10-822-1477
Texas A&M8-1016-1593
Miss. State6-1216-16149
Other games
UAB 94 Final
LBSU 61 Final
UCONN 72 Final
BC 70
FSU 85 Final
VCU 67
NH 53 Final
MU 58
BGSU 64 Final
WSU 74 Final