TALLAHASSEE – Less than five minutes into Wednesday night’s game, Scottie Wilbekin grabbed a pass from Florida State’s Michael Snaer. The Gators were half way through their early 10-0 run, but Wilbekin was just getting started.
The junior point guard led Florida’s defense by setting a career-best five steals.
“He’s the basketball Honey Badger,” center Patric Young said. “I’m not surprised that he [got five steals] at all; it was just his night. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets 10 or 11 steals in one game, that’s just what he does.”
No. 6 Florida (7-0) had 14 steals and forced 22 turnovers en route to a 72-47 win against Florida State (4-4) at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee.
Although the Gators also racked up a high amount of turnovers, their strong defense prevented the Seminoles from scoring off them. Florida State only scored 8 points off of 15 turnovers.
Florida on the other hand converted 22 turnovers into 32 points on Wednesday.
“That was our goal,” senior Kenny Boynton said about forcing turnovers. “We practice hard on defense, and I think we did a great job of translating that. We pressured them great, and it resulted in more turnovers.”
Young added: “That’s just what we do. We try to make teams uncomfortable for 40 minutes, especially when we get into our press.”
The Gators defense also held the Seminoles to 34.8 percent shooting and only allowed them to shoot 25 percent in the first half.
While Florida State’s offense struggled, Florida’s shined.
The Gators made 49.1 percent from the field and went 5 for 12 behind the arc in the second half after only hitting 18.2 percent in the first half.
“The change in us trying to be disruptive to their flow is something that really helped us shoot a pretty high percentage,” coach Billy Donovan said.”As time wore on in the second half we were able to get into the paint and move the ball. We made some threes and had a couple of steals in our zone there in the second half, which enabled us to open up the lead.”
Boynton and Mike Rosario had a game-high 14 points. Young and Michael Frazier II also tacked on double-digit points to help UF win by 25 points – Florida’s largest win margin against Florida State on the road.
Boynton’s 14 points now moves him past Stacey Poole into fifth place on UF’s all-time scoring list with 1,690 – 400 points away from tying the record. Although Boynton moved up in the record books, for him, the win was the most important outcome of Wednesday’s game.
“It feels good,” Boynton said. “It’s a great accomplishment, but I’m happier with the win. If we keep getting the wins, then the points will just come.”