GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Joakim Noah and Al Horford already were difficult to defend. Now, they might be nearly impossible to stop.
Noah and Horford showed added dimensions to their games, leading top-ranked Florida to a 94-33 rout of Prairie View on Tuesday night.
Noah, benched for the final 12 minutes of the first half because coach Billy Donovan wasn’t pleased with his effort and intensity, scored 13 points in the first 7 minutes of the second.
“That was a humbling experience,” Noah said. “At halftime, he jumped me. He hated on me. He hated on my whole life.”
Noah responded with a spinning layup and then used a crossover dribble to drive past a defender to the basket. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists and was 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m a slacker,” Noah said. “I knew I had to come out with something. If I didn’t I was going to get benched again and I didn’t want that to happen.”
Horford made up for Noah’s absence in the first half.
He made a baseline jumper, two midrange shots and a left-handed layup. He also drove coast-to-coast before handing off to Walter Hodge and had a full-court bounce pass to Corey Brewer for a layup. Horford totaled 13 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
“I was totally impressed with him, pleased with him, every adjective you could use,” Donovan said. “I had a feeling he was going to play well.”
Noah and Horford looked little like the two sophomores who led the Gators (5-0) to the national championship last season and could have been NBA lottery picks. They turned down lucrative contracts to return to Gainesville, enjoy college and try to repeat. Now, they’re bigger, stronger, better and have much more diverse games.
“We’ve been doing that all summer long,” Horford said. “We just haven’t had a chance to show it on the court. Our bigs have been working on those kind of shots and we feel confident with them.”
Of course, they came against another overmatched opponent. Florida, playing for the fourth time in eight days, should get a much tougher test in Las Vegas. The Gators play Western Kentucky on Friday, then face No. 10 Kansas the following night.
“Our next two opponents are a different animal, like nothing we’ve faced this season,” Noah said.
Prairie View (1-3) didn’t have anyone taller than 6-foot-7—meaning the Panthers were giving up several inches to the 6-10 Horford and 6-11 Noah.
The size differential was noticeable, as Noah and Horford dominated inside once again. But their outside shots, ability to handle the ball and passing skills made them even tougher to defend.
Hodge had 13 points and Brewer added 12 for the Gators, who extended their winning streak to 16 games and won their 25th consecutive game against non-conference opponents. Marreese Speights, one of Florida’s four freshmen, had 13 points and 10 rebounds—most of it in the second half.
Ivory McGilvery led the Panthers with nine points.
Prairie View actually led 15-13 early in the first half—the first time the Gators have trailed all season—but Florida scored 24 straight points and closed the half on a 32-4 run to make it another rout.
Florida opened the second half in similar fashion, using a 23-4 spurt to make it 68-23 with about 12 minutes to play—thanks mostly to Noah.
“You have to play with an emotional level and a competitive level to be an effective player on the court,” Donovan said. “Jo in the second half played that way. It was great to see him respond in the second half.”