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HOOPS: Balancing Act -- UF cruises past MTSU

GAINESVILLE -- No. 14 Florida dismantled Middle Tennessee State -- an 11th seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament -- 79-59 thanks to a 15-4 run early in the second half Thursday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Six players scored in double figures -- Dorian Finney-Smith (14), Will Yeguete (10), Michael Frazier (13), DeVon Walker (10), Casey Prather (11), Patric Young (16) -- as a shorthanded Florida team discovered some offensive cohesiveness following a horrid first half playing without freshman point guard Kasey Hill (high-ankle sprain).

Although the balancing act took awhile, it was an impressive win after an ugly start.

“I thought our offense was really good without a point guard in the second half,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

Prather, plagued by first half foul trouble, scored all 11 of his points after halftime, while Young finished the night with six rebounds, three assists and 16 points -- six via the foul line.

“I thought Patric did a great job tonight,” Donovan said. “I thought he set the tone defensively. He made a diving play in the first half, which was phenomenal. He was active. He rebounded, made his free throws. I was proud of him tonight.”

UF -- propelled by a dominating defensive effort -- jumpstarted its second half offense with transition buckets, four 3-point plays and several wide-open treys.

The Gators also held MSU’s top two scorers -- Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds, both who average 16 points per game -- to a combined nine points.

“We were really committed to that end of the floor,” Donovan said. “We were engaged. We were disruptive.”

But the first half barely resembled basketball.

Two quality teams combined for 26 fouls, 32 free throws and just 17 baskets in a brutal opening 20 minutes -- one that Donovan called “painful to watch.”

It was another game marred by fouls (43), but Florida at least made them count, shooting 83 percent (25-30) from the free throw line.

“It’s going to take some time for everyone -- officials, coaches, players -- to adjust,” Donovan said of so many whistles. “It maybe a painful year from the spectators standpoint for awhile, but hopefully we move into a positive direction once [the new rules] becomes second nature.”

VIDEOS: Young talks Florida's simplified offense without a true point guard and the team's second-half explosion, while Finney-Smith dishes on his role as a point-forward, the slow start and his loud momma. 

 

 

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