GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Florida was simply too big, too fast and too good from the field for Liberty on Tuesday night.
Joakim Noah led four Florida players in double figures with 15 points and the third-ranked Gators breezed to an 89-58 victory.
The win gave the Gators (13-2) 13 regular-season nonconference victories, the second-best total in school history behind last season’s 14. Florida won all of them but one—Saturday against Alabama-Birmingham—by at least 15 points.
“We were trying to establish an inside presence right away, and I think our big guys did a really good job,” center Al Horford said. “We got some scores early in the paint, and that opened up the game on the outside.”
Corey Brewer and Taurean Green both had 14 points for the defending national champions, while Horford had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Anthony Smith led the Flames (6-8) with 18 points, while Larry Blair scored 17 and Dwight Brewington 15.
Liberty, which has lost 19 straight on the road, has lost seven in a row after starting the season 6-1.
“I think that early on (Florida) took it to us inside and really established themselves on the interior,” Liberty coach Randy Dunton said. “I liked the fight in our kids tonight, though, and we really battled hard in the second half.”
Brewington had five points in a 13-4 second-half run for Liberty, but Brewer made two free throws to stop it and gave the Gators a 71-48 lead.
Three Gators hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the first half, and Florida went up 41-22 on Brewer’s basket with just under four minutes left in the first half. The lead was 52-26 at halftime.
Florida coach Billy Donovan didn’t treat it like a free ride, stomping on the sideline, and the crowd of 10,775, smaller than usual with the school on winter break, didn’t either, chanting continuously each time Liberty had the ball.
It may have been intimidating for the team from Lynchburg, Va., which played its last home game in front of 558 people.
It was Florida’s final nonconference game before Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener at home Saturday against Georgia.
“I was pleased with their focus, their readiness,” Donovan said. “A game maybe you look at and say Liberty right before the SEC, maybe it’s a game you don’t play well.”
Liberty didn’t have a player in its starting lineup over 6-foot-8, while Florida had three. Midway through the first half, the Flames’ biggest starter, Alex McLean, already had three fouls from battling Noah, Horford and Chris Richard inside.
Florida shot 62 percent to Liberty’s 41 percent, and had 52 points in the paint to the Flames’ 26. The Gators outrebounded the Flames 46-19.