Despite Shooting Woes, Gators Prevail

The shots didn't fall with consistency at any point Sunday for the Gators. Head coach Billy Donovan knows there will be days where that is the case, but what can't happen is the way the players responded. It got in their heads and affected the defense in the second half. The lack of intensity allowed Morehead State to scare Florida, but the Gators pulled out a 61-55 victory.

"It was one of those games where we didn't shoot the ball particularly well," Billy Donovan said. "It was a game where you have to rely on your defense. In the second half I definitely thought our inability to put the ball in the basket had a direct effect on our emotional level and the way we played in the second half."

The Gators took a 34-17 lead into halftime, after holding Morehead State to 28.6% shooting in the first half.

As it has all season, energy to start the second half plagued the Gators. Morehead State got right back into the game, led by forward Kenneth Faried. The senior had only six points and four rebounds in the first half.

He ended the game with 20 points and 18 rebounds. The Florida frontcourt player didn't come close to matching his energy around the glass.

"The difference in the second half was Faried totally dominating our front court by himself," Donovan said. "That guy wants to be a pro. That's Dennis Rodman all over again. If I was an NBA general manager, I'd be taking him right with my pick. That's what a next-level guy looks like. He just totally destroyed our front court."

The talent level of Faried isn't impressive to Donovan. It's the effort he shows on the court. Twice the Gators put two men on him to box him out on free throws. Each time they tried it, Faried went up and over them to get the miss and lay it back in.

While he outworked the Florida front line all night, Donovan hopes his players can learn from the example of effort Faried showed.

"He's not talented at all," Donovan said. "It's a great lesson for our guys. There's absolutely no offensive skill. He's not a great post player or a great scorer. He is a relentless, and I use that with all capitals, a relentless effort guy. It's just perseverance, a mentality, and a makeup. It's who he is. He is a complete warrior. I have the most upmost respect for him and the way he plays the game."

Even though Florida took a 17-point lead into halftime, the first half offense wasn't ideal. The Gators shot only 39% in the first half. The second half percentage slipped down to 38.5%.

Kenny Boynton's shots weren't falling, as he started the game 0-of-8. When Morehead cut the lead to seven points with five minutes left in the game, Boynton hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits. Two possessions later with the lead at eight, Boynton hit another three-pointer that deflated Morehead State.

Boynton finished the game 3-12 from the field, but he hit his biggest shots with the game on the line.

"They really cut the score down near the end, so I just had to step up and hit those two threes," Boynton said.

Erving Walker led the Gators with 16 points, going 3-for-7 from behind the three-point line, which had been a struggle for him all season.

Donovan was forced to cut back on the minutes of Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather because they were late for Sunday's shoot around. Walk-on Kyle McClanahan was the first guard brought off the bench, but Dononvan thought he was outmatched athletically. This allowed Wilbekin to play 14 minutes. Prather played only two minutes.

Donovan said there are no hard feelings after today, but he wanted to send a message to his players.

"It hurt our rotation," Donovan said. "I was concerned going into the game because I didn't think it was fair to Boynton, Walker and Parsons not to have a lot of subs since they're perimeter guys. It put us in a tough spot.

"Our guys learned a valuable lesson about the importance of being on time. They're great kids. Hopefully they'll learn a lesson in terms of where to be on time. When you've got a game and you have to be somewhere, I expect those guys to be there."

The Gators will practice Monday and return to action on Tuesday night when they host Florida Atlantic at 7 p.m.

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