GAINESVILLE — There would be no upset this time.
Two years ago, the UCF men's basketball team christened the Amway Center in Orlando with an upset victory over the Gators. On Friday afternoon at the O'Connell Center, No. 7 Florida (5-0) overcame another rocky offensive start for a 79-66 victory over UCF (3-2).
Reminiscent of Tuesday's game against Savannah State, Florida struggled early. The Gators missed their first nine shots before junior guard Scottie Wilbekin hit a 3-pointer at 16:10. Florida shot 10-for-15 in an 11-0 run to take a 24-12 lead with 8:23 remaining in the half.
"We were missing every possible shot," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought we had some good shots, but they just didn't go through. Our defense definitely kept us in the game."
Trailing 42-24 at halftime, UCF opened the second half with an 11-0 run to pull within seven, but that was as close as it could get. UCF shot 57.1 percent from the field overall and 80 percent from 3-point range in the second half, but the Knights are playing with eight scholarship players, and Florida's pressure and uptempo style eventually wore them down, coach Donnie Jones said.
Florida's bench outscored UCF's 28-0, led by Wilbekin's 17, and eight points and four rebounds from Casey Prather.
UCF's Kasey Wilson was 5-for-6 from 3-point range and scored a team-high 20.
"I'm not trying to take anything away from Florida. … They wore us down with constant pressure, and we turned the ball over 19 times; that's way too many," Jones said.
"That was our goal: We knew they played seven guys, and we definitely tried to press them and to get them tired," said Gators senior guard Kenny Boynton, who had a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds after spraining his left ankle Tuesday.
Prather played his first game after sustaining two concussions in nine days before the season. He left temporarily after he bit through his lip when he was hit on his first play; he required at least four stitches.
"I was upset because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to come back," Prather said. "It just feels great to be able to play again, really for the first time since the NCAA Tournament."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]