No. 3 Florida tops Alabama
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 3 Florida has won with defense most of the season.
The Gators showed Saturday they can pull out games on the other end of the court, too.
Scottie Wilbekin scored 16 points, leading all five starters in double figures, and Florida beat Alabama 78-69 for its 15th straight victory.
The Gators handled the Tide for the second time in 16 days and extended a school record for consecutive home wins to 29.
“If you play defense the way we did tonight, you’re not going to win,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Thank God we had some offense today that helped us.”
Florida (21-2, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) shot a blistering 62 percent from the field and finished with a season-high 22 assists.
The Gators trailed by seven late in the first half before taking over the game in the paint and in transition. That opened things up on the perimeter for Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II.
Wilbekin was 3-for-5 shooting from behind the arc, making all three in the second half. Frazier was 3 for 8 from the 3-point range.
Frazier finished with 14 points, joining Wilbekin, Casey Prather (15), Will Yeguete (12) and Patric Young (11) in double figures. It was the first time all five of Florida’s starters topped 10 points since Nov. 21 against Middle Tennessee.
“We have a balanced team, and anyone can beat you on any given night,” Prather said.
Prather, the team’s leading scorer, failed to reach double figures the last two games while dealing with a sprained left ankle. He returned to form against Alabama even though Donovan wasn’t sure he would play a few hours before the tip. Donovan gave Prather the option of playing or resting, and he chose to give it a go.
“It’s got nothing to do with him not being a tough kid or he can’t play through pain,” Donovan said. “It gets more into the fact that he doesn’t feel confidence-wise that he’s capable of doing the things he knows he can do. When he gets to that place, he really gets mentally taken out because he knows he can’t do certain things.
“When he knows he can do things physically, it adds to his confidence. When he can’t move like he wants to move, I think he knows he’s putting our team in jeopardy, and that eats him alive and kills him.”
Trevor Releford led the Tide (9-14, 3-7) with 25 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He was 4 for 6 from behind the 3-point line and perfect on seven free throws.
Releford scored 16 points in the first half, carrying Alabama for much of the afternoon. His 3-pointer put the Tide up 28-21, silencing the sold-out O’Connell Center.
Alabama shot 61 percent in the opening half and went 5 for 7 from behind the arc, giving the defensive-minded Donovan plenty to talk about at halftime. The Gators responded with an effective press, made 3-pointers and a heavy dose of post play that seemingly wore down the Tide.
“They’re at their best when they’re in transition,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said. “From an offensive standpoint, they took us out of some things that we were able to get there in the first half.”
Florida went on a 25-8 run that turned a deficit into a double-digit lead. The Tide ended up losing its four straight and sixth in the last seven games.
“This program can’t do anything but go up,” Releford said. “It’s just a process. Right now we’re losing a game, but I feel as a team we’re getting better and Coach is helping us with that.”
Chris Walker, Florida’s highly touted freshman who became eligible this week, played just 4 minutes in his second collegiate game. He finished with four points, two fouls and a rebound. Donovan said he hopes to get Walker more playing time.
For as dominant as Florida has been recently, the team’s toughest test comes next week. The Gators play at Tennessee on Tuesday night and then at No. 18 Kentucky on Saturday. Those games could go a long way to determining how Florida finishes in the conference and what kind of seed it gets in next month’s NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think we played great,” Yeguete said. “We got it done, but we didn’t play great. We know we’ve got to do a better job if we want to win in Knoxville on Tuesday.”
No. 8 KANSAS 83
WEST VIRGINIA 69
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points and Wayne Selden had 17 for Kansas, which padded its lead in the Big 12 standings.
Reserve Tarik Black added 11 points for the Jayhawks (18-5, 9-1 Big 12), who honored the 40th anniversary of their 1974 Final Four team by fending off the Mountaineers (14-10, 6-5) to take a two-game lead over surprising Texas in the conference race.
The 15th-ranked Longhorns on Saturday lost to Kansas State, which will host the Jayhawks on Monday night.
Juwan Staten scored 22 points and Eron Harris had 17 for West Virginia, which dealt with foul trouble nearly the entire game. At one point, the Mountaineers had five players with four fouls apiece, and Brandon Watkins and Devin Williams eventually fouled out.
No. 17 IOWA 85
No. 10 MICHIGAN 67
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Roy Devyn Marble scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half for Iowa.
Aaron White added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Hawkeyes (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten), who have beaten two AP Top 10 teams in the regular season for the first time since 1990-91, avoided a third straight loss at home and split the season series with Michigan.
Caris LeVert scored 22 points for the Wolverines (17-6, 9-2), who have lost two of three after starting 8-0 in the Big Ten.
Marble was 6 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half — more than the Hawkeyes made as a team the last five games. He finished 8 of 17 from the field and made all four of his free throws.
Mike Gesell had 10 points and matched a career high with eight assists for the Hawkeyes, who rank next to last in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals, but finished 10 of 17 from behind the arc. Melsahn Basabe added eight points and 10 rebounds.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan’s top scorer, finished with 10 points.
KANSAS ST. 74
No. 15 TEXAS 57
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Marcus Foster scored a career-high 34 points on 13-of-16 shooting as Kansas State ended Texas’ seven-game winning streak.
Foster’s points were the most for Kansas State freshman since Michael Beasley had 39 against Kansas on March 1, 2008. Foster’s previous high was 25 points against Oral Roberts on Nov. 13.
Will Spradling added nine points for the Wildcats (16-7, 6-4 Big 12) who extended their home winning streak to 12 games. The win improved coach Bruce Weber’s record at Bramlage Coliseum to 292, 13-1 in conference games.
Isaiah Taylor had 17 points for the Longhorns (18-5, 7-3) while Connor Lammert added eight points. Texas entered the game with four players averaging in double figures.
No. 16 IOWA ST. 84
AMES, Iowa — Melvin Ejim hit 20 of 24 shots in scoring a Big 12-record 48 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead Iowa State.
Ejim had two 3-pointers and six dunks during his big game, one on a spectacular fast-break lob from DeAndre Kane that gave the Cyclones (18-4, 6-4 Big 12) a 67-52 lead and effectively put the game out of reach.
A 6-foot-6 senior, Ejim scored 20 straight Iowa State points during one stretch in the second half. It was his 30th career double-double.
Georges Niang added 11 points and Kane finished with 10 assists for the Cyclones.
Kyan Anderson led the Horned Frogs (9-13, 0-10) with 27 points and eight assists. Amric Fields scored 18 points and Karviar Shepherd had 11 for TCU.
Ejim padded his Big 12 scoring lead with a performance that topped the previous conference record of 44 points by Kansas State’s Denis Clemente in 2009 and the Wildcats’ Michael Beasley in 2008. His previous high had been 23 points against Oklahoma last season.
Iowa State’s school record is 54 by Lafester Rhodes in an overtime victory over Iowa in 1987.
No. 18 KENTUCKY 69
MISSISSIPPI ST. 59
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Julius Randle scored 16 points and fellow freshman James Young added 11 for Kentucky.
Kentucky (18-5, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) has won three straight overall and seven in a row over Mississippi State. The Wildcats had an uneven game on offense but forced the Bulldogs into just 38.3 percent shooting (18 of 47) from the field.
Kentucky coach John Calipari used an unorthodox lineup for much of the game because of ineffective play and foul trouble. Jarrod Polson (30) and Jon Hood (13) both had season highs in minutes played.
The 6-foot-9 Randle was 8 of 13 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. Dakari Johnson started for the third time this season and added nine points and eight rebounds.
Craig Sword had 12 points for Mississippi State (13-10, 3-7), which has lost five straight.
No. 20 VIRGINIA 64
GEORGIA TECH 45
ATLANTA — Sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 14 points and tied his career high with 11 rebounds as Virginia closed the game on a 22-1 run.
Joe Harris and Anthony Gill added 11 points each for the Cavaliers (19-5, 10-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Georgia Tech (12-12, 3-8) led 30-29 at halftime, but the injury-ravaged Yellow Jackets ran out of gas down the stretch.
Sophomore guard Chris Bolden scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half to lead the Yellow Jackets. He was 1 for 8 from the field in the second half when Georgia Tech shot 6 for 23.
No. 25 PITTSBURGH 62, VA. TECH 57, 2 OTs
PITTSBURGH — Cameron Wright scored four of his 18 points in the second overtime to help Pittsburgh snap a two-game home losing streak.
Pitt guard James Robinson converted a four-point play with 33 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the score at 48.
In the second overtime, Pitt forward Lamar Patterson, who was held scoreless during regulation, made his first field goal of the game for a 54-52 lead. Wright added four consecutive free throws.
Pitt (20-4, 8-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) reached 20 wins for the 13th consecutive season.
Jarrell Eddie had 15 points for Virginia Tech (8-15, 1-10), which lost its 10th straight. The Hokies have not won since New Year’s Eve when they beat Maryland Eastern Shore.
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