By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
Florida Gators basketball (7-4) won its fourth-straight game by taking down the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-6) on Saturday at the BB&T Center in the second game of the 2014 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, Florida.
UF led by nine at halftime with poor shooting from both sides keeping the game close throughout, but the Gators finished strong with a 17-5 run on their way to a 63-50 victory.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with 11 quick-hitters:
It was over when: After seeing the team struggle to score for most of the game, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith hit a much-needed three-pointer and junior guard Michael Frazier II finished at the rim on back-to-back possessions to give Florida a 10-point lead with 3:37 left in the contest.
Significant stretch: Trailing 10-7 just six minutes into the game, the Gators went on a 15-0 run over 3:40 to jump ahead 22-10 with 10:12 remaining in the first half. UF hit 5-of-6 shots and all three of its attempts from beyond the arc during the run, taking a lead that it would hold for the remainder of the game.
Prominent player: For the second-straight game, Finney-Smith led the Gators in scoring, racking up 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting. He also paced Florida by hauling in six of the team’s 28 rebounds.
Dynamic debut: Redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy, a transfer from Duke and the younger brother of former Gators F Erik Murphy, also made waves in his Florida debut. After sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, Murphy scored nine points on 2-of-4 shooting with a 5-for-6 mark from the charity stripe. He also recorded four assists as well as a pair of blocks and steals in 27 minutes.
First half focus: Shooting droughts marred both teams as UF took a 28-19 lead into halftime. Wake Forest was limited to 29.2 percent shooting, while Florida shot just 32.1 percent in the opening 20 minutes. The Gators also made just 18.2 percent of their attempts outside of their 15-0 run.
Perfect play: Ending a five-minute scoring drought in the second half that allowed the Demon Deacons to come within a single point, freshman point guard Chris Chiozza provided a much-needed spark for the Gators by hitting a three-pointer with 6:37 left. Florida soon jumped ahead by seven after sophomore F Chris Walker completed an old fashioned three-point play and increased its lead to 13 with a game-ending 17-5 run.
Standout stat: UF forced a season-most 24 turnovers on Saturday. This marked the first time the Gators forced at least 20 turnovers in a game since their 74-58 win against South Carolina on Jan. 8, 2014.
Important injury: Frazier suffered a laceration above his right eye after charging into Wake Forest’s Aaron Roundtree while attempting a three-point shot. He received 14 stitches but returned to the game when he started the second half. Frazier finished with 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
What it means: Florida is riding a four-game win streak, during which it is outscoring opponents by an average of 30.3 points per game, with just two non-conference games remaining until league play. The Gators continue to build on their success and may be coming together at the right time.
Next up: UF has 10 days until it heads to Tallahassee to take on Florida State, which has won three of its last four games, including a 75-62 victory against South Florida in the first game of Saturday’s Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.
Everything else: Demon Deacons PG Mitchell Wilbekin, the younger brother of Scottie Wilbekin, was one of three Wake Forest players suspended by the NCAA (for an undisclosed violation) before the contest. His suspension will last six games.