It was clobbering time at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Monday evening as the newly minted No. 11/12 Florida Gators (9-2) topped the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (1-9) 82-54.
Coming off an unexpectedly easy victory 84-64 against then-No. 22 Texas A&M on Saturday, Florida kept their focus in order to avoid a significant upset. The Gators responded to the challenge with all five starters scoring in double figures and combining to go 10-for-18 from downtown.
Florida opened the contest shooting as well as they have all season, hitting their first eight shots and 10-of-11 to take an early 21-4 lead. The Gators increased their advantage to 20 points minutes later when junior guard Kenny Boynton connected on his second triple and fourth basket of the game in under seven minutes.
After taking a 24-point lead just nine minutes into the game, Florida went on a bit of a scoring drought, allowing Mississippi Valley State to close their gap by five points in just over seven minutes. A trey by Boynton with 2:55 remaining gave the Gators their 24-point advantage back, one they would maintain through the end of the half.
[EXPAND Click to expand and read the rest of the game story.]Coming out of the break, Florida found their stroke again and stretched their lead to 34 thanks in part to four made three-pointers during a two-minute stretch early in the second half. Four free throws by senior point guard Erving Walker stretched the Gators’ advantage to a game-high 39 points with 10:25 remaining.
UF rested many of its starters (some of whom were in foul trouble) down the stretch and relented a bit on defense but still held on for the decisive victory. The Delta Devils were outscored 46-22 in the first half but just 36-32 in the final 20 minutes.
Walker led the way for the Gators with 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting (3-for-5 from downtown, 8-for-8 from the line) with three rebounds, three assists, two steals and three turnovers. Boynton scored 16 points to go along with four boards and four dimes.
Freshman G Bradley Beal was an efficient 3-for-4 from beyond the arc for 13 points with six rebounds, while sophomore center Patric Young added 12 points, eight boards and four assists. Junior forward Erik Murphy matched Young with eight rebounds and hit half of his shots for 11 points.
Freshman center Walter Pitchford and walk-on Jacob Kurtz each got a chance to play; Pitchford hit a layup while Kurtz connected on a pair of free throws. Neither redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (strained back) nor redshirt freshman F Cody Larson (strep throat) saw the court.
Florida outrebounded an opponent for the 10th time in 11 games this season, grabbing 13 more boards (41-28) than Mississippi Valley State. The Gators shot just a shade under 50 percent from downtown and connected on 10 treys, their ninth time hitting double-digit three-pointers this season.
The Delta Devils attempted 32 treys but hit just six of them, shooting a paltry 18.8 percent from downtown and 30.8 percent from the field.
UF will remain at home as they next host in-state rival Florida State on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ESPNU.[/EXPAND]