No. 3 Orange squeeze past No. 9 Gators 72-68

Without one starter the whole game and their sixth man the entire second half, No. 9 Florida Gators (5-2) basketball fell 72-68 Friday night on the road to the No. 3 Syracuse Orange (8-0) in the fifth game of the 2011 Big East/SEC Challenge at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.

A pair of junior guards led their respective teams in scoring on Friday. Florida’s Kenny Boynton, who started slow but caught fire in the second half, finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting (4-for-10 from downtown), while Brandon Triche led Syracuse with 20 points and three assists.

The Gators and Orange were tied at 14 midway through the first half thanks to senior point guard Erving Walker connecting on his first two three-pointers and center Fab Melo hitting his first three shots (two dunks).

Florida sophomore C Patric Young was forced to sit the majority of the first half after picking up a pair of early fouls and watched as reserves took his spot in the frontcourt.

Neither team had much of an advantage early on until Syracuse used a 6-0 run to jump ahead 31-25 with the half winding down. UF hit a jumper to reduce their deficit to four but missed a pair of treys at the end of the half.

Despite hitting some baskets early, Florida shot just 37 percent from the field in the first half and a paltry 21.4 percent from downtown. UF and SU each turned the ball over 10 times with Syracuse taking an early 18-11 (7-4 offensive) advantage on the boards. The Orange were also an inefficient 10 percent from three but connected on 43.3 percent of their attempts from the floor.

After another slow start to the second half, Syracuse took a game-high nine-point lead thanks to another 6-0 run. Florida counted with an 11-2 run of their own capped by a three from Boynton to tie the contest at 41.

Boynton would hit three-straight shots from downtown to give the Gators a 49-46 advantage, but the Orange countered by outscoring their opponent 16-4 and retaking their nine-point lead down a stretch in which Florida turned the ball over five times.

Syracuse held on to their lead with the clock winding down, though Walker hit a trey at the buzzer to make UF’s final deficit just four points.

Walker finished second for the Gators with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting (5-for-9 from downtown) and notched a team-high five assists. Sophomore forward Will Yeguete added 10 points, seven boards and four dimes, while freshman G Bradley Beal grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds but scored just seven points. He hit just 2-of-9 shots from the field and was 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Two other Orange players scored double-digits with G Scoop Jardine posting 16 points and seven assists and F Kris Joseph adding 14 points and five boards (four offensive).

Syracuse outrebounded Florida 34-27 (14-9) on the evening, marking the first time an opponent has grabbed more boards than the Gators this season. UF turned the ball over 20 times (10 in each half) and made just 9-of-26 threes. Florida had converted 10 or more treys in all six games played prior to Friday night.

The Orange was called for goaltending three times during the contest, and Gators redshirt junior G Mike Rosario did not play at all in the second half.

Both of Florida’s losses this season have been by single digits to No. 3 ranked opponents on the road, and the Gators hope to rebound from this defeat when they host Arizona on Wednesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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