The longest-standing rivalry in Southeastern Conference history was barely a contest on Wednesday as the No. 9/11 Florida Gators (11-2, 1-0 SEC) opened up league play with a dominant 77-44 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs (6-8, 0-1 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida improved to 12-5 in SEC openers and 15-2 in SEC home openers under head coach Billy Donovan while also increasing its edge over Georgia to 24-8 overall under Donovan and 14-2 in the O’Dome. The Gators have now registered 11-straight home wins in the series.
Junior forward Casey Prather earned a spot start for Florida with senior F Erik Murphy (rib) and junior F Will Yeguete (knee) ailing and immediately made the most of it. Prather hit three-straight shots to score the first six points of the game, grabbed two early steals (as part of four-straight Bulldogs turnovers) and helped the Gators open the game with an 11-0 lead.
Florida then suffered a scoring drought that lasted 4:38 but followed with an 8-0 run including five-straight points from redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario to jump ahead 19-4. UF took a 13-point lead into the half as its defense forced 11 turnovers and held UGA to just 13 shots in the first 20 minutes.
The Gators opened the second half trading blows with the Bulldogs but drained four-straight shots from downtown to pull ahead 53-26 with 12:07 left in the contest. Florida kept the pressure on Georgia for the duration of the game by unleashing a scoring barrage in the second half to hold on for its first conference win of the young season.
Rosario led the way for UF with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3-of-6 from three). Joining him with double-digit scoring nights were Prather (10 points), Murphy (11 points) and junior center Patric Young (11 points).
Prather registered team-highs of seven rebounds and three steals, while Young went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field. Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin chipped in eight points and a team-high six assists, while senior G Kenny Boynton had another rough shooting night (1-of-7 from downtown) with seven points.
Boynton entered the top-10 in school history in made field goals with his first basket on Wednesday. He also moved into fourth in school history in career starts (118) and fifth in minutes played (3,911).
The Gators scored more points in the second half (49) than the Bulldogs did in the game (44) and dominated their SEC East rivals in every phase of the contest. Florida outshot Georgia from the field (.527-.389), three-point range (.462-.100) and the charity stripe (.875-.789); won the rebounding battle 26-25; dished 13 more assists (17-4); grabbed seven more steals (10-3); registered one more block (6-5); and committed 12 fewer turnovers (7-19).
UF also scored 27 points off turnovers compared to two for UGA and outscored the visitors 30-22 in the paint, 22-16 off the bench and 7-5 on second chances.
Florida will next take on LSU in a road game on Saturday at 4 p.m. The contest will air live nationally on ESPNU.