GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Billy Donovan felt like he was watching an NBA game on Sunday afternoon.
He definitely believes he was watching an NBA player, anyway. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of his own.
The ninth-ranked Gators escaped Morehead State’s upset bid with a 61-55 victory at the O’Connell Center, but Donovan couldn’t stop talking about what Kenneth Faried did against Florida’s front court.
Faried scored 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds — including 14 in the second half — and nearly got the Eagles their third victory in 26 tries against a Southeastern Conference team.
“That’s Dennis Rodman all over again,” Donovan said. “If I was an NBA general manager I’d be taking him with my pick. That’s what a next-level guy looks like. He just totally destroyed our frontcourt. … That was definitely an incredible performance by a terrific player.”
Faried scored Morehead’s first six points but didn’t do much the rest of the first half, which ended with Florida ahead by 17 points. He took over the game in the second half, scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. His fourth dunk helped the Eagles (2-2) get to within six points with 24 seconds remaining.
“I just competed my hardest today and I guess I looked up and got 14 rebounds,” Faried said. “That’s what I pride myself on. I pride myself on getting rebounds and going to the boards as hard as I can.
“Everyone says I’m a tough competitor and has a motor that runs. For Billy Donovan to even say that (he’s comparable to Rodman), that’s a great honor for me.”
Faried was the Ohio Valley Conference’s pre-season player of the year after winning the award last season and he was the nation’s returning leading rebounder (13.0 per game last season). He outplayed Florida’s front court of starters Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin and reserves Patric Young and Erik Murphy. They combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds.
“He is a relentless — and I use that with all capitals — a relentless effort guy,” Donovan said. “It is just a perseverance, it’s a mentality, it’s a makeup. It’s who he is. He is a complete warrior and I have the utmost respect for him and the way he plays the game.”
Faried helped the Eagles out-rebound the Gators 41-36. Florida had out-rebounded its first three opponents by 11.7 per game but managed only 10 offensive rebounds. Faried had seven offensive rebounds himself.
Faried’s performance wasn’t enough to overcome Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton. Walker scored 16 points and Parsons added 13 and 11 rebounds. The Gators (3-1) also got 10 points from Kenny Boynton, including a pair of 3-pointers in the last six minutes to halt an Eagles rally.
Boynton had missed his first eight shots before making a layup on a fast break with 6:01 to play. He made two of his next three shots, both 3-pointers that extended UF’s lead back to double digits.
“I think early on I was trying to find my shot,” Boynton said. “I missed the first eight shots and down the road I kind of tried to put it behind me.”
Walker added seven assists to go along with just two turnovers for the Gators, who were playing their fourth game in 10 days. His last assist came on Boynton’s final 3-pointer with 3:49 to play that extended UF’s lead to 58-47.
“Even if he misses eight, 10, whatever, I’m going to keep looking for him,” Walker said. “He’s a great scorer. I love playing with him and he’s a great player. He’s got a killer instinct and down the stretch I know he’s not going to choke.”