Gators get plenty of offense in blowout
As walk-on Jacob Kurtz stepped to the free throw line with 2:06 remaining, Florida coach Billy Donovan whispered to his bench that if he made both there would be no practice Tuesday.
Kurtz drained them, and the Gators went nuts, celebrating like they had just won a championship.
It was a memorable moment in an overwhelming lopsided game.
Erving Walker scored 19 points, one of five starters in double figures, and No. 11 Florida handled Mississippi Valley State 82-54 on Monday night.
Kenny Boynton (16), Bradley Beal (13), Patric Young (12) and Erik Murphy (11) also scored in double digits for the Gators (9-2), who extended their home winning streak to 11 games.
But Kurtz, a former team manager making his college debut, stole the spotlight.
''He knocked them down like a champion,'' Young said. ''We were excited for him anyway, but once (Donovan) put that on the line, we got even more excited. I'm really happy for him. He's worked really hard. ... He wasn't even like a full-fledged manager. He just came and watched practices, came to 6 a.m. workouts, and a year later, he's in the game scoring his first two points.''
Kurtz blushed as he walked off the court as students chanted his name and teammates patted him on the back. He only suited up because of injuries to Mike Rosario (back) and Cody Larson (strep throat), and didn't even have his name on the back of his No. 0 jersey.
''Jake has been in a lot of practice; he knows what we're doing,'' Donovan said. ''I didn't know if something would have happened: foul trouble, another injury. We may need to throw him in there for a couple minutes. I was glad we were able to get him in there at the end of the game.''
The Gators made it easy for get Kurtz to get on the court.
Florida made its first eight shots, opened a 20-point lead midway through the first half and did anything it wanted against the overmatched Delta Devils (1-9).
Cor-J Cox led Mississippi Valley State with 16 points and Terrence Joyner added 14.
The game provided a bit of a break for Florida, which was coming off a big win over Texas A&M two nights earlier and is getting ready for in-state rival Florida State in three days.
Nonetheless, Donovan used last year's home loss to Jacksonville - a Monday game that came on a short turnaround - as motivation.
''We're in the same exact situation,'' Donovan said. ''Is history going to repeat itself or are you guys going to change that? I said, `The beauty of it is this game hasn't been played and you have control of how we come out and play.' And I give those guys credit. They got themselves ready to play and I thought we came out with really good energy to start the game.''
Except in the second half.
Unhappy with how the Gators came out of the locker room in recent games, Donovan made them run sprints after they looked sluggish in layup lines.
It worked, and Donovan said he plans to continue ''to do something different.''
''That was embarrassing, though,'' Walker said. ''The strength coach just said we were being lackadaisical and that we always start off halves bad so he wanted to try something new.''
The Delta Devils are ready for something new, too. Coming off a nine-day break, they missed 11 of their first 15 shots, including all 10 from 3-point range. Joyner gave them some momentum with a layup, a jumper and a 3 - points that trimmed Florida's lead to 19 - but the Gators pulled away in the closing minutes of the first half.
The Gators pushed the lead to 37 late in the game, before the backups played the final minutes.
MVSU ended a tough non-conference schedule - one of the most difficult in the country - and will get a two-week break before beginning play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
MVSU played 10 games away from home, including eight against teams from power conferences. The Delta Devils lost by double digits to Notre Dame, DePaul, North Carolina, Arkansas, Northwestern and Mississippi.
''All I ask my kids to do is fight and continue to get better because it's almost a no-win situation,'' MVSU coach Sean Woods said. ''The No. 1 team in the country couldn't handle this schedule and go out unscathed. We know what we are in for and we just have to keep battling and stay together because our main focus is winning the conference championship.''