What started out as a slugfest at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL turned into an impressive victory for the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (10-2), which used a picture-perfect performance by sophomore center Patric Young to upend the in-state rival Florida State Seminoles (8-4) 82-64 Thursday evening.
Young played 31 minutes for the Gators and was 7-for-7 from the field, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds while also executing monster takeaway block that shook the O’Dome with excitement.
Florida State got on the board first but suffered through an 0-for-11 scoring drought that lasted 7:50 and saw Florida post 14 unanswered points to take an early 14-2 advantage. However, FSU eventually fought out of their rut and went on an 11-0 run over 1:42 to reduce UF’s advantage to a single point.
The Gators continued the game of runs by opening up an 11-2 scoring stretch capped by a three-pointer from junior guard Kenny Boynton in transition off of a blocked shot by freshman G Bradley Beal to take a nine-point lead with 3:57 left in the first half.
The Seminoles answered by scoring seven-straight points and cutting their rival’s lead to a single basket, but Florida scored four-straight to end the half and took a 32-24 lead on Florida State into the locker rooms at the break.
A trey by junior forward Erik Murphy increased Florida’s advantage to a 19 points, and two free throws by senior point guard Erving Walker gave the Gators a game-high 21-point lead with less than three minutes left in the contest.
Florida, which had been much improved from the free throw line over the last two games, started 0-for-7 from the charity stripe but finished by hitting 16 of their final 17 attempts, shooting 66 percent on the evening. The Gators also hit 10 threes and outrebounded their opponent 32-31, marking the 10th time in 12 games this season that Florida has achieved either feat.
Beal led the Gators with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting and hit 3-of-4 attempts from beyond the arc to go along with six rebounds. Boynton (14 points), Murphy (12 points, six boards) and Walker (11 points, 8-of-10 from the line) also scored in double digits as sophomore F Will Yeguete led Florida with eight rebounds.
UF registered 12 steals during the contest with Beal and Yeguete each grabbing three; Boynton and Walker each took the ball away from FSU twice.
During the contest, Walker became the 12th player in school history to surpass 1,500 career points. The Gators awarded head coach Billy Donovan a ball for his 400th win prior to the game and honored the Voice of the Gators Mick Hubert at the first media timeout for calling his 1,000th career Florida football or basketball game.
UF will have a week off for the holidays before travelling to face Rutgers on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN2 and will be the second-to-last one the Gators will play before the new year.