Beal leads No. 10 Florida past Wright State 78-65By FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer Monday, Nov 21, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—It’s early, and 10th-ranked Florida played like a team that has a lot to work on.
“I can’t sit here and tell you that there was one thing that I was really, really pleased with from start to finish,” coach Billy Donovan said after freshman Bradley Beal scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 78-65 victory over Wright State on Monday night.
“I thought we were OK. I thought we showed signs. … But in terms of how we’re playing defensively, how we’re playing offensively, we’re kind of streaky,” Donovan added. “But then again, you know, it’s Nov. 21. We’ve played four games. I do think there’s a lot of room for improvement and I think we can get better.”
Kenny Boynton had 22 points and Mike Rosario came off the bench to add 11 for the Gators (3-1), who led by double digits for much of the night but never fully closed the door on the persistent Raiders (2-2) until the end.
Julius Mays led Wright State with a career-best 21 points, including a 3-pointer that trimmed Florida’s lead to nine with 5 minutes to go. John Balwigaire had 15 points and freshman Reggie Arceneaux finished with 13.
“There’s a lot of positives for us to take from the game, but there’s also a lot of learning opportunities,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said.
“When Florida was up with under four minutes to go, they didn’t settle for 3s. They drove the ball to the rim. … We settle for 3s and didn’t drive it at the rim. … We just made young mistakes late. … By no means am I saying we were going to rally and win it, but we had a chance to put a little more pressure on them later in the game.”
The Gators slipped to No. 10 in the rankings following a week in which they lost 81-74 at No. 3 Ohio State, which trounced Wright State 73-42 in the Raiders’ season opener.
Florida trailed just once in its first regular-season meeting against a member of the Horizon League, falling behind 4-3 on Johann Mpondo’s jumper before Boynton made a 3-pointer and Beal followed with a dunk and long 3-pointer. Although the Gators were never seriously threatened the rest of the way, Wright State managed to stay close enough to make it interesting.
The Raiders cut their deficit to nine on two occasions after trailing 44-29 at halftime.
Donovan attributed Florida’s inability to put the game away to the Gators’ inexperience and a lack of awareness in certain situations on the court.
“There was too much of that, not really understanding, OK, how do we put this team away?” Donovan said. “I think there are times in the game, we’re up 15 or 16 points and we self-sabotaged.”
Boynton drained one of his six 3-pointers to restore a double-digit lead after Wright State pulled within 50-41 with 14 minutes to go. Erving Walker made two free throws and Patric Young went to the line and made one of two after the Raiders cut the lead below 10 again on Mays’ long jumper that made it 66-57.
Young was poked in the eye late in the first half and spent an extended stretch on the bench with blurred vision. He returned to the game when his vision improved and finished with five points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.
Beal, one of four underclassmen who start for Florida, eclipsed his previous personal best of 17 points against Ohio State. The 6-foot-3 guard from St. Louis was 6 of 11 from the field and 9 for 11 at the foul line.
“We tried to come out more aggressive. We were just trying to keep pressure on them, keep the up-tempo,” Beal said. “The team is looking fine, but we still have a lot of work to do on the defensive end.”