In his third contest back after a three-game suspension, junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin put together a career game for his hometown team, leading the No. 7/8 Florida Gators (5-0) to a 79-66 win over the Central Florida Knights (3-2) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Wilbekin reached career-highs in points (18), rebounds (five) and assists (eight), registering the majority of those numbers off the bench in the first half. He started the second half in place of junior forward Will Yeguete and continued leading the Gators for the duration of the game.
Central Florida took an early 5-0 lead as Florida started 0-for-9 from the field, but the home team ensured that advantage was short lived. The Gators hit 10 of their next 15 shots and pulled off consecutive 8-0 and 11-0 runs to go up 24-12.
Wilbekin made his statement early by scoring 11 of UF’s first 20 points while starting 3-for-5 from downtown. He finished 6-of-12 from the field and 4-of-9 from long range.
Florida increased its advantage to 19 points on consecutive threes from senior guard Kenny Boynton and freshman G Michael Frazier and held on to a 42-24 lead at the half as Boynton was blocked at the buzzer.
UF eventually extended its advantage to a game-high 21 points and held on for another impressive non-conference home victory.
Boynton led the way for the Gators with team-highs of 24 points and eight boards. He was 4-for-9 from three and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.
Junior center Patric Young was the only other Florida player in double figures as he chipped in 10 points and five rebounds. Yeguete added four points, five boards and four dimes, and junior F Erik Murphy scored nine on just 1-of-6 shooting from long range.
After missing four games due to multiple concussions, junior G/F Casey Prather returned and had a great all-around game for the Gators. He went 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line for eight points with four rebounds, an assist, a block and a forced turnover.
Four Central Florida players posted double-digit point totals, and UCF used an impressive performance from F Kasey Wilson to outscore UF 42-37 in the second half. Wilson finished 5-of-6 from downtown for a team-high 20 points.
The Gators forced 19 turnovers and gave up just nine, won the rebounding battle 41-27 and outscored the Knights off turnovers (27-11), in the paint (38-18), off the bench (28-0) and on second-chance baskets (21-1).
Next up for Florida is a home game against Marquette that is part of the 2012-13 SEC/BIG EAST Challenge. The Gators will get a six-day break before facing the Golden Eagles on Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. in a game that will air live on ESPN2.