Donovan earns 400th win, Gators down Stetson 96-70

Stetson coach Casey Alexander went into Monday night’s neutral

court matchup with No. 10 Florida knowing the Hatters would need to

have a lot of things fall their way to have a chance at an

upset.

Those dominoes didn’t line up in their 96-70 loss, but there

were some small signs of progress for the Hatters heading into

Atlantic Sun play later this week.

”The only real way for us to make that a more completive game

is for us to shoot it a lot better than we did,” Alexander said.

”That, and for them to shoot it a little worse than they

did.”

Bradley Beal had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Erving Walker

added 21 to lead the Gators (5-1) in the neutral court matchup at

Amway Center. The Hatters (3-3) were led by Chris Perez with 20

points.

Stetson lost for 17th straight time to the Gators and also

joined Florida’s history books with Billy Donovan earning his 400th

career coaching victory as the Gators rode a 16-point halftime lead

to the win.

Stetson stayed close early on before a 23-4 Gators’ run midway

through the first half blew the game open. Florida relied on its

outside shooting during the spurt, knocking down eight 3-pointers

in the half and 14 for the game. Stetson struggled from the outside

shooting 1 for 17 from the 3-point line and committing 18

turnovers. The Hatters entered the game averaging 22.8 turnovers on

the season.

As dismal as it was at times, there were highlights with Adam

Pegg reaching double-figures with 19 points and Willie Green

tossing in 11 off the bench. Alexander said those are welcome signs

heading into conference play Thursday against East Tennessee

State.

”East Tennessee State is the most important game we’ve played

until this point,” he said. ”Coaches talk about one at a time and

talk about the journey and all of that is true, but for the

Atlantic Sun you’re gonna have one team most likely play in the

NCAA tournament…How we perform on conference is really what we

need to be focusing on.”

The Gators came into Monday night a little battered on the

injury front after starting forward Erik Murphy tore the meniscus

in his right knee in practice . Swingman Casey Prather was also

nursing a groin strain, but did suit up against the Hatters.

Will Yeguete started in Murphy’s place for the second straight

game.

Even with a short bench the Gators still attack the Hatters with

their press on defense and were pretty effective keeping them off

balance with Stetson committing 12 turnovers in the first half

alone. Florida also had 14 steals in the game.

It all helped Florida get several open looks in transition from

the outside and the Gators took advantage of them.

Florida took a 16-point lead into the break, but led by as many

as 22 in the opening 20 minutes.

The Gators kept their cushion by connecting on 8 of 20 shots

from beyond the arc in the half, while Stetson knocked down just 1

of 10 attempts.

Stetson trailed just 15-12 early on before Florida went on a

23-4 run that made it 38-16. The Hatters held 18-17 rebounding

edge, though, and responded with a 13-0 run to get within nine

before the Gators ended the period on a 9-2 spurt.

Beal had three of Florida’s first-half 3’s and led all scorers

with 12 points.