Though the No. 10 Florida Gators took down the then-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans just a few weeks ago, their toughest test of the young 2009 season came Thursday night against the No. 7 Syracuse Orange. Florida (8-1) lost their first game of the season 85-73 to Syracuse (9-0) at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL, as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational in a match that was much closer than the score indicates.
Down six at the end of the first half, the Gators came back to take the lead with 10:31 remaining in the game; however, they held it for less than a minute as the Orange would grab it back and pull away over the final few minutes of the contest.
Freshman guard Kenny Boynton led Florida in minutes (36), points (20) and assists (7), though he only shot 7-for-17 from the field, 5-for-14 from three-point range and 1-for-4 from the free throw line. Coming off the bench, senior forward Chandler Parsons was the most efficient Gator on Thursday, playing 35 minutes and recording 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from three). Sophomore point guard Erving Walker added 14 points and was 4-for-9 from beyond the arc. Junior power forward Alex Tyus led the Gators with 10 rebounds, though he missed a number of shots in the waning minutes of the game to finish 4-for-11.
Three Syracuse forwards achieved double-doubles against Florida, including Rick Jackson (19 points, 11 rebounds), Wesley Johnson (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Kris Joseph (12 points, 10 rebounds). As a team, they out-shot the Gators 52.5 percent to 43.5 percent from the field, though Florida won the three-point battle 40 percent to 23.1 percent. The Gators were +4 in turnover margin, but they committed eight more fouls and allowed the Orange to get into the bonus early. Syracuse won the battle on the glass 39-28, out-stole Florida 13-4 and finished the game on a 12-4 run.
The Gators will play their third consecutive road game next Saturday, Dec. 19 in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic against the Richmond Spiders in Sunrise, FL, at the BankAtlantic Center. The game will be aired live on Sun Sports at 6:30 p.m.