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HOOPS: Flight School... And on another Gators victory

BfraZYhCAAA8coQ.jpg-large(Courtesy @journo2go)

GAINESVILLE -- Freshman forward Chris 'Sky' Walker took flight Tuesday evening, but it was No. 3 Florida's brilliant backcourt that dominated the Missouri Tigers in UF's 14th straight win. 

Backed by Scottie Wilbekin's 19 points, including shooting 13-of-16 from the charity stripe, Michael Frazier's 14 points and Kasey Hill's six assists, UF scooted past Mizzou 68-58 for its 28th consecutive victory at home.

Florida (20-2, 9-0 SEC) held Missouri (16-6, 4-5 SEC) to its lowest scoring output since its last trip to the O'Connell Center on Jan. 2013, frustrating the Tigers into 12 turnovers and 39 percent shooting Tuesday night. 

“We know since we're the top team in the SEC, we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” said senior center Patric Young, who finished the evening with 13 points and six rebounds.

“We don’t want any letdowns. We have to bring our A-game every night, and we know it."

The Gators again struggled to score in the half-court in the first half (just 1-of-11 from downtown), but Florida shot the ball from the perimeter much better after halftime -- mainly Frazier.  

The sophomore sniper drilled three treys in two minutes, busting a close game wide open late in the second half. 

"This was a really hard game for us, " UF coach Billy Donovan said. "It was a struggle all the way through. Nothing was easy."

The Gators everntually sprinted to a 15-3 run to put away a pesky Tigers team, as Donovan acknowledged UF’s ability to play inside-out allowed them to slowly exploit Mizzou's zone defense. 

But while Florida's win was the ultimately entree on the evening, Walker's highly-anticipated debut was a delicious desert for UF fans. 

The five-star freshman, who sat out 12 games after the NCAA ruled he received impermissible benefits from five different people, entered the game to a raucous standing ovation with 11:28 remaining in the first half. 

The 6-foot-10 McDonald's All American immediately made his presence felt, delivering a vicious block and a silly two-handed slam off a lob from former AAU teammate Hill in a three minute span. 

"It was nice," Walker said. "I kept a positive mind and just kept working." 

Journo2go(Courtesy @journo2go)

"I just looked in [Hill's] eyes and it brought back flashbacks," Walker said. 

 

Later, Florida's freshmen duo connected again, sending a packed O'Dome into a frenzy.

With seconds remaining in the first half, Walker flushed another thunderous alley-oop on a sweet feed from Hill. The scintillating slam was soured a bit, however, as Jabari Brown drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

In all though, it was a solid debut for a tantalizing talent. Walker finished with four points, two blocks, two fouls and a rebound in just seven minutes. He missed a couple defensive rotations, displaying some brief (and expected) confusion, but he played with the energy, effort and swagger teased for weeks.

"I really had no idea what to expect," Donovan said. "I thought he contributed very positively."

VIDEO: Walker, Donovan talk debut, NCAA ruling & more...

 

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