Head coach Billy Donovan has criticized the No. 14/16 Florida Gators (4-1) for the poor way they have performed in the second half of games since the season began. His message will likely be different Tuesday evening considering Florida struggled out of the gate but pulled away in the latter part of the contest to defeat the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-3) 79-66 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Shooting only 41.4 percent in the first half, Florida took a 34-32 lead in the closing seconds after sophomore guard Kenny Boynton put in a fastbreak layup and freshman center Patric Young contributed a free throw.
Though they out-rebounded Florida Atlantic 22-14 and committed five less fouls in the period, UF allowed FAU to shoot 46.7 percent from the field and provided them with some wide open looks from downtown.
Boynton and senior forward Alex Tyus led the way offensively for the Gators in the first half, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively. Tyus also grabbed five rebounds in the early portion of the contest.
Florida would keep its lead the entire second half, going on a short 8-1 run including a mid-range jumper and layup off a steal by junior point guard Erving Walker to jump ahead 47-39 with 12:08 to play.
Finally pulling way, Florida used a trey from senior F Chandler Parsons to take a game-high 13 point lead with 2:46 remaining. They would go up-and-down the remainder of the game to win by the same margin.
Boynton (21 points) and Tyus (19 points) stayed hot in the second half, and Walker scored 11 of his 14 points in the latter period to go along with six rebounds, four assists and five clutch steals.
Hobbled with a bad knee, redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin got off to a slow start but scored five points and pulled down 11 rebounds while blocking three shots. Freshman F Will Yeguete made the most of his eight minutes off the bench by grabbing six boards and getting to the line three times while injecting some energy into the team.
Parsons was scoreless in the first half with two turnovers but found his legs late in the contest to finish with eight points and six rebounds without giving the ball up again.
Gainesville native G Greg Gantt was dynamite from downtown for the Owls, going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 6-of-12 from the field for a FAU-high 17 points.
Both teams shot 33.3 percent from three and in the low-40s from the field, but Florida earned the rebounding advantage 44-28 and committed five fewer fouls.
The Gators’ sluggish start was somewhat understandable seeing as Tuesday’s contest was their fourth game in eight days, and their resilience coming out of the locker room at halftime was certainly a sight for Donovan’s sore eyes.
Florida will now get four days of rest before traveling to Tallahassee, FL, on Sunday to face Florida State at 7:30 p.m. The game will air live on Fox Sports Florida.
POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
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