Gators win 61-55, avoid early-season upset
GAINESVILLE, FL (TAKE 2 SPORTS) - After a first half that appeared nearly worthy of its top 10 ranking, #9 Florida did just enough in the second to fend off a feisty Morehead State team, avoiding a disappointing mid-major letdown.
The Gators took a 17-point lead into half time, where after the break, senior Vernon Macklin's opening dunk pushed it to 19. Though, just when it looked like the visiting Eagles were being blown out of the O-Dome, senior Kenneth Faried rolled up his sleeves and went to work, leading Morehead back into the game with an effort worthy of the Ohio Valley Conference pre season Player of the Year honor given to him.
The boundlessly energetic Eagles big man dominated around the rim, even against the likes of Florida's taller post players, racking up 20 points and 18 rebounds, while also blocking 2 shots. Florida coach Billy Donovan knew all about Faried, calling him a "1st round NBA Draft pick" earlier in the week, yet the Gators could do nothing to contain his efforts.
"He just totally destroyed our frontcourt," Donovan said to the Orlando Sentinel. "He's not talented at all, and it's a great lesson for our guys. He's not a talented player. He has absolutely no offensive skill. He's not a great post player. He's not a great scorer. He is a relentless, and I use that with all capitals, a relentless-effort guy in terms of going after every single rebound."
Morehead reserve Lamont Austin's only points of the game, a 3-pointer with 10:50 remaining, cut Florida's lead to just 6, 45-39. Minutes later, Gator sophomore Kenny Boynton picked the right time to break out of an 0-8 shooting funk, scoring on a lay-up, and two straight 3-pointers to build the lead back to 11.
"When you're up on a team by 17 points, it's almost like you know the other team is going to come out and they're going to battle and fight," Donovan said. "And if you give them a glimmer of hope that they can get back into the game in the first four or five minutes of the half, you're going to create a level of energy for that team that you're going to have to deal with for the rest of the half."
Junior guard Erving Walker finished with 16 points, while Chandler Parsons had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Boynton added 10 points.
Florida (3-1) is off until returning to the home court Tuesday night to host Florida Atlantic.