Leading by just four, 37-33, at intermission, the Gators, who jumped all the way from being on the outside (receiving votes) of the AP Top 25 to being voted No. 13 this week after capturing the 2009 Legends Classic championship in New Jersey over the weekend, went on a 16-1 run over the first five minutes of the second half to open a 53-34 lead and were able to keep the Rattlers (0-8) at bay en route to staying perfect.
"I thought we got off to a pretty good start the first ten minutes of the game," head coach Billy Donovan said. "The last ten minutes of the half, though, we didn't play very well. I thought we did a much better job in the second half of guarding and protecting the basketball."
The Gators looked like they would make short work of the Rattlers, doubling the score on FAMU. 28-14, with 8:41 left in the first half on a 3-pointer by Chandler Parsons. But the visitors responded, going on a 19-6 run and cutting the lead to one, 34-33, with under a minute left. A 3-pointer from deep on the right corner from senior Dan Werner, who led UF with 16 points and just missed a double-double with a game-high nine rebounds, moments later gave UF a 37-33 halftime lead.
But Donovan was clearly not happy with the way his team was playing, and he let them know it at half.
"We were up pretty good, but we let them come back," Werner said. "It was very disappointing."
Asked what words of wisdom Donovan had, Werner smiled and answered "Guard somebody."
"We were playing good D, but all of a sudden we couldn't get a stop," he added. "It was very frustrating."
The Gators came out with a lot more intensity at both ends of the court after that to take control. A baseline jumper by Alex Tyus, who had 10 of his 15 points after the break, got UF rolling, and 6-10 center Vernon Macklin, who continues to impress, was fouled going to the hoop and hit both free throws to make it 41-33. Sophomore point guard Erving Walker, the MVP of thte Legends Classic, then swished a trey, and following a steal, Parsons made a layup to give the Gators a 46-33 advantage.
FAMU's Brandon Bryant hit one of two foul shots at the 16:12 mark for the Rattlers' first point of the second half and end a run of 12 straight Gator points going back to Werner's trey before halftime, but Tyus knocked down a pair of free throws, then threw down an emphatic jam on a runout after a FAMU turnover to make it 50-34. Werner, who was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, then added another trey as the lead ballooned to 19, 53-34.
The Rattlers did get as close as 60-46 on a jumper by Amin Stevens with 8:07 remaining, but Macklin hit two more charity tosses and followed a Rattler miss with a powerful one-hand dunk to extend the lead back to 18 with seven minutes left, effectively putting the game away.
Once again, UF got balanced scoring as four players hit in double figures with Walker (10 points) joining Werner (16), Tyus (15) and Macklin (14), the latter of whom added seven rebounds as UF won the board battle, 41-31. Parsons had another solid game off the bench with seven points and seven rebounds for the Gators.
FAMU was led by guard Christopher Walker who led all players with 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He was the only Rattler in double figures.
Florida shot a solid 51.7 percent from the field (31-of-60) while holding the Rattlers to 40.3 percent (25-of-62). The Gators also forced 20 turnovers and had a season-high 20 assists, with freshman Kenny Boynton, who was slowed by the flu and did not start, having a career-high nine assists. He struggled badly from the field, however, going 0-for-7 and only scoring one point in 24 minutes of action.
"I wasn't even sure he was going to be able to play at all," noted Donovan.
The Gators put their unbeaten mark on the line Friday night at 7 when they take on Jacksonville University in Jacksonville.
Gators Remain Unbeaten
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