Suffering a devastating upset to Jacksonville on Monday, the No. 19/20 Florida Gators (9-3) rebounded slightly with a 66-55 victory over the Radford Highlanders (2-9) Wednesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Junior point guard Erving Walker, who led Florida in points for the second-straight game and was perhaps the most efficient offensively he has been all season, posted 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting while going 5-for-7 from downtown and 3-for-4 from the free throw line. He scored a season-high 21 points for UF on Monday.
Radford, which is 340th in the nation in points per game and field goal percentage and has now lost nine-straight games, never led in the contest but was only down seven points going into halftime and ended up losing the game by 11 after facing a game-high 18-point deficit late in the second half.
The Highlanders turned the ball over five times in the first 4:30 of the game, allowing the Gators to jump out to an early 13-1 lead. Radford did not make its first field goal until 12:22 remained in the first half but went on a 7-1 run to cut Florida’s lead to 23-16.
UF coughed up the ball nine times in the first half and shot a paltry 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. Senior forward Chandler Parsons dished five assists in the period, one more than the entire RU team.
The second half began in a similar fashion for both Radford and Florida. The Highlanders committed seven turnovers in the first 5:17 of the half, and the Gators used a 14-2 run to jump out to a 45-28 lead. Controlling the game most of the half, Florida went up a game-high 18 points and looked to cruise to the finish line until Radford exploded on an 11-3 run to cut UF’s lead to 64-55 with 1:05 left in the game.
The Gators forced a season-high 23 turnovers in the contest, and their nine treys tied their top mark for the year. Head coach Billy Donovan won his 340th game Wednesday night, tying him for third all-time in Southeastern Conference history.
Parsons finished the game with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals but missed all four attempts from downtown. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton continued to struggle shooting, finishing 4-of-13 (3-for-9 from three) with 11 points.
Senior F Alex Tyus grabbed five boards and was an efficient 4-for-6 from the field for eight point, while redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin added six points and six rebounds. Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin saw 20 minutes off the bench and scored the first three-pointer of his career to go along with two assists.
Florida now has nearly a week off to celebrate the holidays before they face Fairfield at home on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU.
Other statistics from the box score:
– Sophomore F Erik Murphy: 2-of-7 for four points, four rebounds, two blocks
– Freshman F Will Yeguete: 3-for-4 from FT line, five points, five rebounds (four off.)
– Radford shot 50% from the field against Florida after averaging 36.5% on the season.