Gators win with 3s

The Florida Gators (8-2) got off to a sluggish start Wednesday night in the O'Connell Center before their shooting came alive and cruised in the second half to a 94-60 victory over Florida Gulf Coast University (2-7). The Gators had four players in double figure points on the night and used their rebounding muscle to thwart off the hot 3-point shooting Eagles.

"I thought it was a game of (different) halves for us," head Coach Billy Donovan said. "I think a lot of it revolved around the 3-point line. They were 6-9 in the first half. They are a team that averages only 14 attempts per game and they hit six of nine in the first half."

The game was close throughout the first half as the Eagles went a torrid 6-9 from three point line including 5-6 from guard Reed Baker. With 3:29 left in the first half the visiting Eagles held one point lead, but it would be their last of the night. From that point on, the Gators went on a run to end the half up by eight at 37-29.

The Gators went 3-11 in the first half from beyond the arc, a lowly 27.3%. They also missed layups and short shots as they tried to get their legs.

In the second half that all changed as they went 8-15 from the 3-point line and ended up with a 50.7% three point percentage over all on the night.

Guards Erving Walker (freshman) and Walter Hodge (senior) paced the Gators from 3-point land hitting eight shots between them. Hodge and sophomore center Alex Tyus led all Gators with 19 points each. Tyus had a great night in the paint going 9-13 from the field and pulling down eight rebounds.

"Coach has been getting on me to try and demand the ball, so I have been working on that and the guys have done a great job of finding me inside," Tyus said after the game. "I am just trying to be active."

The surprise of the night came when sophomore All-American guard Nick Calathes didn't start. It was his first non-start since his arrival on campus a little over a year ago. Calathes ended the first half with zero points and rebounds in just 13 minutes of play. Donovan was proud of his effort on the night and with his relentless play,, Calathes finished with seven points, nine assists, and two steals in 30 minutes of play.

"There is a certain level of preparation that we have to go through that we hold and want our guys accountable for," Donovan said when asked about Calathes not starting. "Basically what we did is put the guys in there that had to do some things preparation wise for this game. I have no problem with Nick, he is one of the hardest workers on our team. It was a level of accountability on things we do preparing and we put the guys in that we felt at that moment in time those guys seemed to be the most prepared.

"Nick played a great game. He took it upon himself. He had nine assists and no turnovers and was the guy that ignited our fast break more than anyone else in terms of getting guys shots."

Four Gators scored in double figures on the night. Hodge, Tyus, junior forward Dan Werner (16), and Walker (13).

The slow start offensively was exacerbated by a deficiency in guarding the three point line as Eagle guard and Michigan transfer Reed Baker lit it up from beyond the arc. Once the Gators started getting a hand in Baker's face, he only shot one more shot in the second half.

"They hit too many shots from the three-point line...18 points...and you aren't going to win many games allowing that," Werner said about the first half. "Some of them were tough shots and some were wide open. We just played harder, that was about it. In the second half, we started defending the 3-point line, got some wide open looks, and guys made shots."

"I would say it was a lack of communication," Hodge said about allowing so many 3-pointers. "They have two great shooters and we didn't find them in the first half."

Led by Calathes' nine assists the Gators had a whopping 24 on the night with only eight turnovers as they had numerous fast break opportunities. The Gators also controlled the boards pulling down 17 offensive rebounds and hauling in 44 total compared to the Eagles 32.

The Gators next play in Jacksonville on December 20 against the Central Florida Knights.

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