Florida returned point guard Scottie Wilbekin after a two-game suspension, but the Gators lost some of their early-season chemistry as he worked his way back into the lineup.
Starting point guard Kenny Boynton's strong second half pushed Florida past Middle Tennessee in a 66-45 win.
A scrappy Middle Tennessee team took Florida to the wire in the first half, but the Gators fought back to secure a 66-45 win to improve to 3-0 on the season.
"That's how they get their wins," starting point guard Kenny Boynton said on the Gator Radio Network. "They're an aggressive, defensive team. I think in the first half, we didn't handle it well."
Florida's defensive effort was terrific after the break, though. The team used a 14-2 run to blow the game open, holding Middle Tennessee to just two points in the first eight and a half minutes of the second half.
The Gators used a mix of man-to-man and zone defense, which has proven extremely effective this year with bigger guard in the backcourt.
Florida began to wear down Middle Tennessee in the second half by working the ball more into the low post.
"We just talked about at halftime, if they're going to pull three guys that far away from the basket, we've got to throw the ball inside," coach Billy Donovan said on the Sun Sports broadcast. "Throw the ball inside and try to at least maybe get some three-point plays or fouls. Our guys did a good job recognizing that in the second half."
Boynton exploded for 18 points in the second half, hitting a handful of three-pointers late in the game to finish off the Blue Raiders. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds and an assist in the win.
"Today it took longer than usual," Boynton said. "I got on it at the end of the game. I'm happy with my team, we grinded out a win today."
Junior forward Will Yeguete also had a strong performance, helping Florida get by in the first half with starting center Patric Young in foul trouble after picking up two fouls in the first nine minutes.
He finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in the win.
"At halftime, that's all coach was giving positives about," Boynton said. "He had all the offensive rebounds, he had all the hustle points, he had all the points in general for us. Coach gave him a lot of praise at halftime. I think throughout this whole season, the first three games, he's done a great job."
Wilbekin was the only other player in double-figures for Florida with 10 points.
Florida will return to action Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center against Savannah State.
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