ORLANDO, Fla. (FCSports.com) – Their second go-around in the Florida Citrus Sports Shootout ended much better than the first time for the No. 10 Florida Gators. The Gators avenged last season’s close loss to UCF by beating the Stetson Hatters by a comfortable margin, 96-70, in front of 5,843 at the Amway Center. Florida head coach Billy Donovan notched his 400th career win in the Gator victory.
Led by freshman guard Bradley Beal’s second career double-double, Florida used a team effort to top the Hatters. Five Gators finished in double figures. Beal was tops with 22 points, with Erving Walker close behind with 21. Chris Perez led the Hatters with 20 points, and Adam Pegg contributed 19 in the loss.
Stetson’s defense was solid in the half-court game, but Florida’s quickness in transition was the difference in the game’s first ten minutes. Halfway through the first half, Florida led 29-14.
The Hatters attempted to get back into the game by matching the Gators’ three-point game, but Stetson’s shooters struggled from behind the three-point stripe. Compounding the Hatters struggles was a streak of foul calls going for the Gators allowed Florida to grow their lead.
Stetson began turning the tide late in the first half, taking advantage of a combined streak of poor distance shooting and a lapse in Florida’s discipline. F/C Patric Young followed a goaltending call with a technical foul on a play in which he was fouled himself.
Young’s missed free throw plus Dennis Diaz’ two points from the charity stripe gave the Hatters a spell of momentum. Stetson cut the Florida lead to as low as nine, but the Gators revived their offense with a series of fast break points and three-pointers. Florida led at the break, 47-31.
After trading buckets for the first few possessions, Florida re-established their control of the contest. The Gator lead hovered at 20 points for the entire second half. Florida never turned the game into a blowout, as Stetson always appeared ready to make a run.
Unfortunately for the Hatters, that run never came. For every mistake made by Florida, Stetson made one of their own. As the half progressed, the Gators took more chances, opening the door for Stetson to gain momentum, but the Hatters were unable to capitalize, often rushing their own fast break attempts and committing a turnover of their own.
Next up for the Gators is an SEC/Big East showdown in Syracuse. Stetson returns home to nearby DeLand for their conference opener against East Tennessee State.