Florida 79, Middle Tennessee State 59: Gators cruise without a steady hand at point

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida struggled to break away from Middle Tennessee State early. Once the Gators got in rhythm, though, they drummed the Blue Raiders.

At one point, the score was Florida 10, Middle Tennessee State 7.

Then Will Yeguete hit a three.

The rest of Florida's 79-59 win over the Blue Raiders wasn't quite so strange, but it did surprise, as the Gators controlled a game against a good team with superb defense and ball movement beyond what was expected of a squad playing without a point guard.

Six players scored in double figures for the Gators, with Patric Young leading the way with 16 points and six rebounds, both game highs. Michael Frazier added 13 despite making just one three, and Casey Prather put in 11, most of them spectacular, despite sitting for much of the first half with two fouls.

Though Young's game was up there with his most impressive as a Gator, and DeVon Walker (10 points, two threes) flashed a lot of his improvement since his days as a skittish freshman, the story of the night may have been Dorian Finney-Smith. Doe-Doe, as he's called, had 14 points and five rebounds off the bench, and looked like the sort of smooth point forward Florida has had tons of success with under Billy Donovan. He made just four of 10 shots, too — there's a lot more on the table for him when those go down, especially with his excellent free throw shooting (six-for-six on the night) making fouling him a tough decision.

Florida had just 10 assists on 25 made baskets on the night, but its ability to run out in transition and pound the ball inside to Young and Yeguete (10 points, five rebounds) made up for that lack of assists in some measure, and Prather and Finney-Smith knifing inside repeatedly from the wing made up for the rest of it.

And the Gators' defense also stepped up, shutting down the Blue Raiders. The Gators forced 15 turnovers, allowed Middle to shoot under 44 percent from the field, and allowed no runs longer than a pair of 6-0 ones in the second half, both coming on two straight threes. Jaqawn Raymond (13 points) made three of eight threes on the night, and Neiko Hunter (14 points) got his buckets inside, but this was a disciplined, diligent effort from all of Florida's defenders, who held their fourth straight foe under 60 points.

Scottie Wilbekin is set to return for Florida's next game, so the Gators have successfully weathered the part of their season in which point guard play was most desperately needed. But Florda's performance on this night, against an underrated Middle Tennessee State team, suggests that it didn't need anything more so desperately after all.

Star-divide

Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.

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