The Gators (7-2) used the strong inside presence of center Patric Young in the first half and then turned to their outside shooting in the final 20 minutes to pull away for a 90-69 victory at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Kenny Boynton scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half to lead Florida.
Young was 5 of 6 from the field in the first half when he scored all 12 of his points. He had seven of his 10 rebounds in the first half as the Gators took a 43-26 lead.
Rider was in a zone defense, paying particular attention to the outside shooting threat of Florida’s guards which left Young free inside the paint.
“My teammates were able to find me in the first half when they were in that zone,” said Young, who was returning to his hometown where he led Providence H.S. to a state championship as a senior.
Florida, which entered the game second in the nation by averaging 11 3-pointers, bettered that mark with 13 3s in 28 attempts. Florida’s three starting guards, Boynton, freshman Bradley Beal and Erving Walker combined to go 12 of 23 shots from 3-point range.
The three-guard attack took control in the second half.
“I didn’t think we could match up with them man for man so we leaned on the zone,” Rider coach Tommy Dempsey said. “They spread out and you can’t guard them all. Their shooters are harder to guard in man coverage because they’re constantly beating you off the dribble and then you’re always looking for help.
“They play together so well and they pass the ball so well, I thought our best chance to stay with them was in a zone. But in the second half, once they caught fire, they just put the game away.”
Beal and Walker both made two 3s in the opening 5 minutes of the second half. When Scottie Wilbekin hit another 3 at the 14:46 mark, the Gators held their biggest lead of the game, 65-38.
Thirty seconds later, Boynton added his third 3-pointer as Florida made its first six shots from behind the arc. The Gators only made 4 of 14 attempts the rest of the game, but they led by at least 18 points the rest of the game.
“I feel bad for the other team because they have to try and decide who they’re going to stop—do you watch Pat inside or concentrate on the guards from 3-point range?” said Beal who was 3 of 8 from long range and finished with 18 points.
Boynton was 5 of 9 on 3s and made all four of his shots from inside the line to finish two points shy of his career-high set against Vanderbilt last January. He had five rebounds and three assists and didn’t commit a turnover in 32 minutes.
“This was a game where we let the play come to us, we took what the defense gave us,” Boynton said. “Plus we did a good job in protecting the ball with only the one turnover in the first half, six for the game.
Reserve Jeff Jones had 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting for Rider (1-9), which kept the game from getting out of hand in the second half by making 6 of 12 3-point attempts.
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