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No. 16 Florida handles Middle Tennessee, 79-59

Created: 11/21/2013 8:35 PM

(AP) GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Patric Young scored 16 points, one of six Florida players in double figures, and the No. 16 Gators beat Middle Tennessee 79-59 Thursday night.

The Gators won their 19th consecutive game at home, this one thanks to a dominant start to the second half.

Florida (4-1) came out of the locker room and outscored the Blue Raiders 18-6 over the first 5 1/2 minutes. DeVon Walker got the run started with a 3-pointer, and then the Gators went inside.

Young had a dunk, and Jacob Kurtz and Dorian Finney-Smith followed with three-point plays. Leading scorer Casey Prather, who played just 4 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, made two free throws and also added a three-point play. In between, he found Michael Frazier II on the break for a layup.

Florida used the spurt to turn a single-digit lead into a 20-point game, and coach Billy Donovan’s team coasted from there.

Neiko Hunter led Middle Tennessee (4-1) with 14 points. Jaqawn Raymond (13) and Eric Wortham (11) also finished in double figures.

Finney-Smith scored 14 points for the Gators. Frazier (13), Prather (11), Will Yeguete (10) and Walker (10) also reached double figures.

The Gators won their 20th consecutive game against non-conference opponents. The latest one was notable because they did it without a true point guard.

Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin sat out an exhibition game and the first five regular-season contests because of a suspension. Kasey Hill, a freshman averaging 10.3 points, could be out a month with a high ankle sprain. Hill badly twisted his left ankle in Tuesday’s win against Southern. He wore a protective boot on his foot and watched from the bench Thursday.

Without him, Florida used Walker, Frazier and Finney-Smith to handle the ball.

It didn’t work very well early.

The Gators managed just two assists in the first 20 minutes, part of an ugly half that also included 32 free throws, 26 fouls and only 17 baskets. The teams combined for five assists. Florida led 34-26 thanks to making 15 of 18 free throws.

It didn’t help Florida that Finney-Smith, Prather, Walker and Eli Carter picked up two fouls each _ most of them early. The Gators played with Billy Donovan, the coach’s son, and fellow walk-on Kurtz down the stretch.

But things changed after the break. With more guys available, Florida made the most of its size advantage.

The Gators finished with 34 points in the paint and outrebounded the Blue Raiders 31-26.

Florida was playing its third game in six days, a stretch Coach Donovan hopes will better prepare his team for the NCAA tournament. It also could get the Gators ready for an upcoming slate that includes games against rival Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis.

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