Saturday was a day of redemption for the No. 24 Florida Gators. Down 20-8 to the No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats late in the first half, head coach Billy Donovan’s team came back from their deficit with solid defense and efficient shooting to prevail 57-44 at the 2010 Orange Bowl Basketball Classic at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL.
Florida (8-2), which improved to 8-2 all-time in the event, held Kansas State (9-2) to 27.3 percent team shooting and outscored them 37-21 in the second half for their most impressive victory of the season.
Things started off slow for both teams but especially for the Gators, who did not score until junior point guard Erving Walker drained a jumper eight minutes into the game. The Wildcats jumped ahead 20-8 on a three-pointer by guard Jacob Pullen with 9:05 remaining in the first half but went on a significant drought from that point forward.
Down 12 after Pullen’s trey, Florida went on a 12-3 run to end the half and added an 8-0 run coming out of the locker rooms to take a 28-23 lead. The Wildcats would reduce their deficit to three, but the Gators kept inching further and further ahead eventually going up a game-high 18 on two free throws by Walker with 2:38 left in the game.
Sophomore G Kenny Boynton, who played the first game of his college career near his hometown in Broward County, was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player after posting a team-high 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-for-4 from downtown). He rebounded significantly from his last two games, in which he combined to go 3-of-21 from the field and 1-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Boynton started 0-2 and also missed two consecutive free throws.
Walker had his most impressive game of the season with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting while dishing three assists and only turning the ball over once. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin was his consistent self with seven rebounds to go along with 10 points.
Playing major minutes off the bench were freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin, freshman C Patric Young and sophomore forward Erik Murphy Young grabbed two big rebounds and swatted the ball away twice, while Murphy scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting while notching four boards.
Florida’s senior Fs, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus had juxtaposed performances. Parsons grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots and scored seven points in 31 minutes, while Tyus played only 19 minutes and made one basket.
Pullen was Kansas State’s only effective scorer, but even he went 6-of-17 (1-for-17 from three) for a game-high 19 points. No other Wildcats player posted double-digit points and only two others (non-starters) made more than one basket.
UF out-shot KSU 53.5-27.3 percent and blocked five more shots but turned the ball over nine more times (17-8) and was out-rebounded 26-28.
Kansas State’s point total was their lowest in five seasons under head coach Frank Martin, and Florida played the best defense it has all season, holding a ranked opponent to under 50 points for the first time since 1968.
The Gators return to Gainesville, FL, to face Jacksonville on Monday at 1 p.m. The game will air live on Sun Sports (check your local listings).
Photo Credit: Jeffrey M. Boan/Associated Press