GAINESVILLE — At halftime, it appeared Florida was on its way to one of those cakewalks that teams often find themselves in this time of year. But by the end of Sunday's game against Morehead State, the Gators were getting schooled by a senior forward/center from Newark whom Billy Donovan compared to former NBA star Dennis Rodman.
Morehead State's Kenneth Faried had 20 points and 18 rebounds and nearly single-handedly led the Eagles to an upset of the No. 9 Gators before Florida pulled out a 61-55 victory at the O'Connell Center.
Faried had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the second half.
"I'd seen enough film on Morehead that I knew they were not going to wilt and go away, and they were going to compete and battle," Donovan, the Florida coach, said. "I thought the difference in the second half was Faried totally dominated our frontcourt, by himself. … That guy wants to be a pro. That's Dennis Rodman all over again, and if I was a general manager, I'd be taking him with my pick. We've got four guys that did a terrific job for 20 minutes. He just totally destroyed our frontcourt."
Florida (3-1) led 34-17 at halftime and by as many as 20 with 2:29 left in the first half. But when the Gators' shots weren't falling in the second half, it had a direct effect on their defense, which opened the door for Faried.
Morehead (2-2) went on a 9-0 run midway into the second half to get within six with 10:48 left.
Leading 52-45, Florida guard Kenny Boynton, who opened 0-for-9 from the field, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Florida ahead 58-47 with 3:49 left. Morehead never pulled closer than five.
Florida shot 38 percent from the field and just 26.3 percent from beyond the arc. "I would say they outworked us," said junior guard Erving Walker, who had 16 points and seven assists.
"We held them to 39 percent shooting, and we were right there," Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said. "If a couple more shots went down, who knows? Maybe we can upset a top-10 team in America."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.