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Florida 63, Wake Forest 50: Grinding Gators pull away for painful win in Sunrise

After losing Michael Frazier II for the first half and losing most of their lead in the second half, the Gators pulled away for a win.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Sunrise, Florida isn't the sort of place you would expect to be home to things that are cold and ugly.

The Gators were, on Saturday. They still won.

Florida saw a lead that stretched into double digits at times dwindle to one point at one juncture in the second half, then finished the game on a 17-5 run to get a 63-50 win over Wake Forest.

Dorian Finney-Smith led all scorers with 16 points, but needed 13 shots to get them; Michael Frazier II, who left the game in the first half after suffering a cut to his forehead while committing a mind-numbing offensive foul, had 12 points on 11 shots in his time on the court. No other Gator had more than the nine points chipped in by the newly-eligible Alex Murphy, who got those on just four shots, and added four rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, including this emphatic rejection.

But if any player really saved Florida on this afternoon, it was Chris Chiozza, who had eight points on four shots, all in the second half, and pumped in two crucial threes and sank two late free throws to get them. Chiozza was surprisingly quiet on the defensive end in a game in which Florida forced the majority of Wake Forest's 24 turnovers — including a staggering 10 from big man Devin Thomas — but his offensive contributions were vital.

Florida's going to need occasional caping up like that this season, even though its defense proved stout once again, yielding 37 percent shooting from the field, and 31.6 percent shooting from three. A cold night by the Gators — Florida made just six of 23 threes, and missed 10 consecutive threes over a stretch spanning both halves — gave Wake Forest far more of a chance than it should've had with two key players, Mitchell Wilbekin and Cornelius Hudson, available.

Frazier won't injure himself at the same time Eli Carter is unavailable due to illness again, in all likelihood, but the Gators' frequent stagnations are more survivable right now because of their defense, the rotating cast of heroes, and the relatively low level of competition Florida's been facing.

Florida can beat Florida State playing like this, too. Beyond that game, it's gonna get a lot harder. And to keep winning, the Gators need to get better.