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Air Force fades in 78-61 loss to No. 14 Florida

  • Article by: STEVEN WINE
  • Associated Press
  • December 29, 2012 - 7:23 PM

SUNRISE, Fla. - With a size disadvantage, the Air Force Falcons knew their best shot against No. 14 Florida was beyond the 3-point line, and baskets from long range kept them in the game for a half.

But the Gators' superior size and smothering defense gradually grinded the Falcons down, and they lost 78-61 Saturday in the second game of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

"We got a little worn down in the second half," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "And that was because of our physical stature compared to theirs."

The Falcons shot 6 for 13 from 3-point range in the first half and trailed only 33-31. But open shots became tough to find after that, even from the perimeter.

"We knew coming in they were a good shooting team," Florida's Erik Murphy said. "They shoot 3s from all five spots. They were hitting 3s in the first half, and at halftime, coach said we have to guard the 3-point line better. I think we did a better job of that in the second half."

In the first half the Falcons shot 48 percent. In the second half they shot 33 percent, while the Gators shot 70 percent and scored 45 points.

"We were making better reads and better decisions," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.

Florida (9-2) won for only the second time in the past four games. Air Force (8-3) fell to 2-77 against ranked teams.

Florida State beat Tulsa 82-63 in the first game of the one-day event.

Kenny Boynton snapped a shooting slump in the second half to help the Gators pull away. The senior had made only 4 of 32 from 3-point range over the previous five games, but he hit three in a span of 8 minutes during the second half.

"I spent a lot of time watching film with coach Donovan on the shots I've been taking," Boynton said. "I just tried to take open ones. That's what I tried in the second half."

Boynton, who ranks third in career 3-pointers made at Florida with 282, went 3 for 7 from long range and scored 14 points.

Murphy scored 21 points, had seven rebounds and added four assists while missing only two shots in 29 minutes. He was chosen the game's MVP.

"Today was really a complete game for him," Donovan said. "He scored in a lot of different ways."

The Falcons matched the second-best start in school history in their first 10 games but hadn't faced a team of Florida's caliber. Air Force's Michael Lyons was held to 11 points, nine below his average, and he shot only 3 for 14.

"A very good Florida team, and we knew that coming in," Pilipovich said. "We knew in the second half, they'd be a bit sharper and a bit stronger, especially defensively."

The Gators scored 38 points in the paint and had a 36-25 advantage in rebounds.

The Falcons forced Florida to be creative on offense early. The Gators' Scottie Wibekin, inbounding under his basket, bounced a pass off a defender's back, stepped onto the court and caught the ball for a wide-open layup.

Boynton sparked a 12-3 spurt when he made two 3-pointers and fed Casey Prather for a layup, putting Florida ahead 47-37. Boynton hit another 3 for a 59-47 lead.

The Falcons hit three early 3-pointers to go up 10-5, but that turned out to be their biggest lead. Florida surged ahead, gave up eight consecutive points to fall behind 27-25, then went ahead to stay on a basket by Mike Rosario shortly before halftime.

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