Wilbekin returns, Gators top Blue Raiders
by David Jones, USA TODAY Sports
TAMPA — Senior Kenny Boynton scored a game-high 20 points to pass Tampa native Dwayne Schintzius and pull into sixth place on Florida’s all-time scoring list and Will Yeguete had 11 points and 13 rebounds as the 10th-ranked Gators beat defending Sun Belt Conference regular season champion Middle Tennessee State 66-45 Sunday.
Florida (3-0) led just 29-26 at the half. But the Blue Raiders (2-1) hit a couple of miserable shooting slumps and the Gators pulled away by hitting free throws — getting into the double bonus midway through the second half.
Florida didn’t shoot particularly well early. But Yeguete, who also made the first 3-point basket attempted in his three-year career, scored inside to make it 14-10. Center Patric Young picked up his second foul at 11:37 and was done for the half and Middle Tennessee, after a 4 for 14 start, got a couple of quick baskets to pull even at 17.
UF guard Scottie Wilbekin, suspended before the season opener for disciplinary reasons, saw his first action of the season a little over five minutes into the contest, shortly after the Blue Raiders took their only lead of the game at 6-5. Wilbekin, who finished with eight points, scored his first basket at the 5:33 mark to put Florida ahead 22-20.
It was tied one final time before Yeguete, who had eight of the Gators’ 21 rebounds in the first half, got back-to-back buckets off offensive rebounds to give the Gators a 26-22 advantage and the lead for good.
Boynton followed with a pair of free throws for UF’s biggest lead of the half, 28-22, at 1:15. Yeguete, who had nine points at the break, hit a free throw for a 29-26 Gators halftime margin.
UF started the second half with a 9-2 run to go up 37-28. Boynton’s basket and free throw at 14:53 enabled him to pass Schintzius, who passed away April 15 after a battle with cancer.
The Blue Raiders made just 3 of their first 14 shots from the field in the second half as Florida put together another big run to increase the lead to 48-33 on a … [For more on Florida gets Wilbekin back, tops Middle Tennessee State, click here.]