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November 25, 2011Only five games into the season, this group of Gators is clearly a different team than last season.
These Gators know how to shoot the three and they do not lose to Jacksonville on their home floor.
Players were careful to avoid making Friday's game against Jacksonville all about last year's 71-68 win by the Dolphins in Gainesville, but it definitely provided the team with extra motivation.
"I don't want to say revenge because that game is in the past," center Patric Young said. "But we were definitely thinking about it."
Young was consistent. The sophomore center divided his points evenly, scoring seven in each half. As a team, Florida made a point to maintain the same energy and effort in both halves.
The Gators high-tempo style of play wore on the Dolphins in the second half.
"I really noticed it mentally with their team," Young said. "They started arguing with each other a little bit and losing their team chemistry. Then they started turning the ball over."
UF won the turnover battle 15-7. The Gators opened the first 14 minutes of the game with only turnover. During that time of virtually error-free basketball, Florida put together a 26-4 run that had the Dolphins trailing 28-10 at the 10-minute mark.
Even if this game was not about revenge, the Jacksonville game from a year ago played a part in the Gators approach.
"I thought our guys were very, very focused," said Billy Donovan about his team's approach. "They realized this was going to be a battle. A lot of Jacksonville players from last year are still on that roster. They beat us soundly in a lot of aspects."
UF's focus also translated into a solid night from behind the three-point line. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker picked up the slack for forward Erik Murphy, who was on crutches after injuring a knee during Thursday's practice.
Donovan said that more tests are scheduled for Saturday, but he doesn't believe it is a season ending injury.
Florida has achieved 10 or more threes in all five games this season, something it only managed twice last season.
"I think today was our best game overall, start to finish, as a team this season," Walker said.
Walker finished with 21 points on the night, many of them coming at the foul line, where he was 7-of-8. Boynton bested him by one point to lead all scorers with 22.
Donovan finally saw what he's been looking for tonight, echoing Walker's sentiments of the Gators playing a solid, complete game.
"It's good that we made a jump from last game to this game," Donovan said. "That's what you want to see this time of year, is that your team improves."
The Gators travel to Orlando to face Stetson on Monday in the second annual Florida Sports Citrus Shootout. A Florida victory would mean 400 wins for Donovan.