Gators Win After Second Half Surge

The Florida Gators exploded for 49 second-half points to turn a close game into a rout as head coach Billy Donovan's team improved to 3-0 on the young season with an 80-58 victory over visiting Troy Friday night.

UF trailed at the half for the first time this season, 32-31, after being outrebounded 28-19 in the opening stanza by the Trojans (2-1), with 10 of the Troy boards coming on the offensive end. And the Trojans did it with leading scorer Brandon Hazzard, a senior guard who came into the game averaging 24 points per game, scoring just two points in the opening 20 minutes.

But Alex Tyus had a huge block on a Troy breakaway to open the second half that really energized the O'Connell Center crowd of 10,297 as well as his Gator teammates, and sophomore point guard Erving Walker scored all 13 of his points in the first 10 minutes after intermission to key a 26-7 Gator run as UF took a commanding 57-39 lead and coasted to victory.

The Gators outscored the Trojans, 49-26, in the second half and outrebounded them, 26-16, to finish with a 45-44 advantage on the boards.

"Well certainly for us it was a tale of two halves," Donovan said. "In the first half, I really thought we struggled in a lot of ways. We didn't shoot it great and we didn't rebound the ball well. Our defense was O.K., but we really didn't have a lot going on at either end of the floor.

"I thought Troy probably felt pretty good being up one point and Hazzard only having two points at the half. That concerned me, but we made some adjustments and our guys came out and played much better in the second half. We shot it much better and I thought our press was a little more effective."

The 5-8 Walker, who set a career-high with six rebounds and added a game-high seven assists and three steals, was one of four Gators in double figures on the night. Freshman Kenny Boynton, who scored the Gators' last 10 points of the game capped by back-to-back treys, again was impressive, leading all scorers with 23 points. He connected on 50 percent from the field (8-of-16) and added six rebounds, four assists and a steal. Junior Chandler Parsons again energized the Gators off the bench, finishing with 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while forward Dan Werner, the lone senior on this year's roster, had his best game of the year so far with 12 points coming on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.

"I knew the shots were going to start falling eventually," Werner noted. "I've been shooting the ball well in practice. I just wasn't taking good shots. Tonight I made sure I had a good shot before I let it go."

As a team, UF shot a respectable 37.5 percent (12-of-32) from beyond the arc – a marked improvement for a squad that came into the contest just barely shooting better than 10 percent (3-of-29) in their first two wins. "That's about average, to be honest with you," said Donovan. "If we can shoot in that 37 to 41 percent range on a consistent basis, it can really open up some things for us offensively."

Nobody was happier than Walker, who was coming off an 0-for-10 shooting performance in UF's win over Georgia Southern and followed that by going 0-for-5 in the first half Friday. But he broke his 0-for-15 drought following intermission, going 4-for-8 in the second half including a trio of 3-pointers.

"It's tough, but you have to stay strong-minded," said Walker. "It was real frustrating, but it felt good to finally hit something. I mean, you are always confident in your shot, but still, when one goes in, you always feel a lot better."

Tyus, meanwhile, might have given the Gators a fifth player in double digits were it not for an injury suffered with 2:04 left to play when he got tangled up with a Troy player and the two tumbled to the floor. He eventually walked off, with Donovan noting afterwards that the early prognosis was a sprained ankle, the severity of which was not yet known. Tyus finished with nine points, five rebounds and two blocks.

Defensively, the Gators held the Trojans, who had scored more than 100 points in each of their two wins, to 35.5 percent (22-of-62) from the field including just 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range. Richard Delk (15 points) was the only Trojan in double figures.

UF is next in action Tuesday night when the Gators close out their season-opening four-game homestand with a 7 p.m. tipoff against FSU.

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