Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sports

Florida Gators overcome Middle Tennessee

GAINESVILLE — The concern for Florida entering Thursday night's game against Middle Tennessee was the lack of a true starting point guard.

With freshman Kasey Hill injured and senior Scottie Wilbekin still suspended for violation of team rules, the responsibility fell on shooting guard Michael Frazier and DeVon Walker.

Walker and Frazier combined for 26 points, two of six UF players in double figures, to help lead the No. 16 Gators to a 79-59 win over Middle Tennessee.

"Not having a point guard definitely raised our sense of aggressiveness because we knew that we were like a wounded animal," said Frazier who had 13 points and played 36 minutes — including the entire first half.

"We don't have all our pieces, so we had to go in there and be aggressive and fight.''

Neither team could get into much of an offensive rhythm in the first half. Just under the midway mark Florida was 6-of-18 (33.3 percent). Middle Tennessee (4-1) shot 12.5 percent from the field near the halfway mark.

"I thought offensively we really struggled in the first half, there was no cohesiveness," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We got really stagnant, didn't move the ball well. It was painful to watch. But I thought we flowed much better in the second half. The kids adjusted and did a good job making some changes."

The Gators (4-1) led 34-26 at halftime after a first half that produced a combined 17 baskets, 26 fouls, 32 free throws and just five assists (two from the Gators).

But after shooting just 36 percent in the first half, UF opened the second half in attack mode, leading to a 12-0 run to take a 49-30 lead with 15:16 remaining in the game. That span included a 3:01 drought for Middle Tennessee (4-1).

"It was for 40 minutes the best defense we've played this year, especially with so few bodies," Donovan said.

Florida played its third game in six days.

2014 signings: UF signed three for next season: Chris Chiozza, a 5-11 guard from Memphis; Brandone Francis, a 6-5 guard from Jacksonville; and Devin Robinson, a 6-8 forward from Chesterfield, Va.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

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