An impressive offensive performance by junior point guard Erving Walker fueled the Florida Gators (10-3) to a close 71-67 victory over the Xavier Musketeers (8-4) in Cincinnati, OH on Friday. Florida’s win snapped Xavier’s 30-game home winning streak at the Cintas Center, a venue the Musketeers have not lost at in more than two years.
UF had never defeated XU in two tries going into Friday’s game but led 31-27 at the half and jumped out to a game-high 15-point lead with 13:23 left in the contest due to an electric 13-1 run while holding their opponent without a basket for 10 game minutes.
Xavier closed the gap in the waning minutes, using a full-court press to take off on a 12-3 run cutting Florida’s lead to four with 1:22 remaining. The Gators, however, went 12-for-14 from the line in the final two minutes to starve off the Musketeers’ comeback.
Florida out-shot (45.1%-40.3%) and out-rebounded (38-30) Xavier but committed eight more turnovers (16-8) in the contest. The Gators scored more than 70 points for the first time in their last eight games but allowed the Musketeers to be only the second team in that span to score more than 60.
Walker led Florida with a team-high 18 points, going 3-for-6 from downtown and 9-of-11 from the charity stripe. He had trouble at times protecting the ball (as he has most of his career), committing six costly turnovers.
The frontcourt duo of redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and senior forward Alex Tyus was dynamite in the first half with Tyus scoring the team’s first six points. The pair combined for 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting in the contest; Macklin added seven rebounds but injured his shoulder in the second half and was limited.
Senior F Chandler Parsons chimed in with five points and game-highs in rebounds (11) and assists (7), while sophomore guard Kenny Boynton dished six assists and was 2-for-4 from downtown and 7-for-9 from the free throw line for 15 points.
Xavier’s star guard Tu Holloway led the Musketeers with a game-high 26 points on 50 percent shooting to go along with six assists. Center Kenny Frease came off the bench to play 31 minutes, score 16 points and grab seven boards.
UF will have the opportunity to celebrate the new year before facing Rhode Island on Jan. 3 in Gainesville, FL. The game will air live on ESPNU at 9 p.m.
Photo Credit: David Kohl/Associated Press