Gators secure thriller over Memphis

There wasn't much defense being played on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden, producing a back-and-forth second half that came down to the final possession. The Gators lost in a similar fashion two games ago at Connecticut and were determined not to let it happen again, holding onto a 77-75 win over Memphis in New York City.

"We found a way, but I didn't think it was one of our better performances," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "I didn't think we played a great game. We found a way to win."

That has been the problem in close games over recent years.

It still wasn't perfect. Dorian Finney-Smith and Scottie Wilbekin both missed the front end of a one-and-one situation at the free throw line, keeping Memphis in the game and allowing them a chance to tie or win the game on the final possession. Wilbekin missed his with 18 seconds remaining and Florida clinging to a two-point lead.

After Memphis head coach Josh Pastner called a timeout, the Tigers let Joe Jackson go to work, but he missed a layup before Finney-Smith punched the ball out of the scrum as time on the clock expired to secure the win.

"He's always saving the day," Florida forward Casey Prather said with a laugh about Finney-Smith.

Guarding Jackson wasn't ever easy for Florida. He ended the game with 17 points on 5-13 from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line, adding a team-high five assists. His speed caused Florida problems in transition and helped him get to the rim seemingly at will.

"Joe Jackson, we had no answer for him the last three or four minutes," Donovan said. "He kept going by us and making plays around the basket.

"We struggled in a lot of ways, in particular on the defensive end of the floor. That was a major setback for us defensively. We did not defend like we needed to."

The Florida offense was balanced but turned the ball over 17 times. The quickness of the veteran Memphis backcourt wreaked havoc, leading to transition offense for the Tigers, especially in the first half. Prather led the Gators with 22 points while Finney-Smith (14), Michael Frazier (11) and Scottie Wilbekin (11) joined him in double figures.

Young was everywhere

The box score shows eight points and eight rebounds (six offensive) for Patric Young, but his impact went further than that. On Tuesday, he brought the energy that was missing in the early part of the season.

Over the final seven games of the year, Young was averaging 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. In his last three against ranked teams in Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis, Young is averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.

"His energy tonight was a monster," Donovan said. "He offensive rebounded. It's the best I've seen him this year chase basketballs on the backboard. I was really proud of him tonight."

The win takes Florida out of a difficult stretch against Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis with a 3-1 record, moving the Gators to 8-2 on the year.

Florida will enjoy the win for the night before starting preparation for Fresno State on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., in the Orange Bowl Classic. The Gators are 2-2 in their final game before Christmas over the last four years.

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