No. 14/16 Florida Gators basketball (4-1) won its third-straight game by blasting the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-1) on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Florida topped Middle Tennessee 79-59, winning both halves while playing dominant defense throughout the contest.
OnlyGators.com breaks down the Gators’ win with The Fastbreak.
It was over when: Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II (5-for-10, 13 points), who was relatively quiet most of the night despite being efficient offensively, drained his first three-pointer of the game with 6:58 remaining. The triple pushed the Gators ahead a game-high 21 points and put the contest completely out of reach for the Blue Raiders.
Significant stretch: Moments after Middle Tennessee State cut Florida’s lead to seven points with 17:54 left to play, the Gators exploded on a 15-2 run over 3:22 – including a trio of old-fashioned three-point plays – to jump ahead by 20 points. MTSU never got closer than 12 points over the duration of the contest.
Prominent player: Senior center Patric Young easily put together his best performance of the young season, scoring a season- and game-high 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting while hitting 6-of-8 attempts (six-straight) from the charity stripe. He also swatted two balls and grabbed a game-high six rebounds, giving great effort on both ends.
Memorable moment: With the first half coming to an end and the Blue Raiders possessing the ball, the Rowdy Reptiles began counting the clock down to zero – a few seconds ahead of the actual game time. The chant from UF’s students forced MTSU’s Eric Wortham, Jr. to throw up a terrible three-pointer with four seconds remaining, taking a possession away from the road team at the conclusion of the final 20 minutes.
Perfect plays: Young took an entry pass in the low block but quickly tossed it off to senior forward Casey Prather (4-for-5, 11 points), who was cutting past a defender down the baseline. After receiving the ball, Prather charged straight up to the hoop, reversing the ball under the rim before laying it in to put his team up 58-40 with 10:39 to play.
Standout stat: 25-of-30, which represents Florida’s efficiency from the free throw line. While both teams struggled to put the ball in the hoop during the first half, the Gators were able draw fowls to get to the charity stripe and slowly but surely increase their lead. Shooting that well – 83.3 percent – has been no easy task for UF in the recent past, so the efficiency on Thursday was certainly commendable.
What it means: Without a point guard or experienced ball-handler, the Gators played team basketball and came away with a victory against an opponent that made the NCAA Tournament last season and was 4-0 entering the game. UF also captured a round robin title in the process – winning the Global Sports Challenge, an exempt event, with a perfect 4-0 record over the last two weeks.
Next up: Florida will play its fourth game in nine days when it hits the road to take on Jacksonville on Monday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on FOX Sports Florida. It is Gators last early game against a non-BCS team as UF will play its next four contests against tough opponents like Florida State, UConn, Kansas and Memphis.
Head coach Billy Donovan will likely be lifting the suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin prior to the game, giving Florida back a much-needed playmaker, floor general and defender.