Wilbekin's career night propels No. 7 Florida

Wilbekin's career night propels No. 7 Florida

The game plan for Central Florida was to force Scottie Wilbekin to hit shots. He did. The junior point guard recorded 17 points, five rebounds and eight assists, all career highs, while going 6-for-12 from the field. The starting lineup looked like it wouldn't change until Wilbekin worked his way back, but he could force his way back after No. 7 Florida's 79-66 win over UCF.

"Coach didn't want me to be passive," Scottie Wilbekin said. "He wanted me to come off those screens and shoot it."

His previous career high for three-pointers in a game came when he hit three against Tennessee last season. That was tied less than nine minutes into the game on Friday.

The other career highs fell quickly, too.

His layup ten minutes into the game gave him 11 points, tying his previous career high set against North Carolina A&T. He tied his career high of four rebounds less than ten minutes into the game. He also took more shots than in any other game in his career while playing a career-high 32 minutes.

"He really, really played well," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "He has become a scorer that, when he's open or you don't guard him correctly, he can score. His first two years of his career, he has not tried to score. He has been more of a facilitator and lockdown defender. Scottie is going to be a guy that you're going to have to respect offensively because he can make shots when he's open."

Wilbekin played so well that Donovan threw him into the starting lineup in the second half while moving Will Yeguete to the bench, giving No. 7 Florida more size off the bench.

He energized a Florida (5-0) lineup that desperately needed it at the start of the game. The Knights jumped out to a 5-0 lead as the Gators opened the game 0-for-9 from the field. Wilbekin ended that stretch with his first of four three-pointers. His scoring forced UCF (3-2) to focus more of the attention on him as the game progressed, opening Kenny Boynton for more shots throughout the game.

Boynton fought through a sprained ankle to play on Friday, and he scored 24 points and tied a career high with eight rebounds. He sprained the ankle in the second half against Savannah State on Tuesday and went through plenty of treatment to get back on the court.

Boynton missed the first practice of his Florida career on Wednesday and the senior returned on Thursday to go through half of practice. When he wasn't at the practice court, he was getting treatment. Boynton iced his ankle four times a day while going in the hot tub with it three times a day. He was at the facility getting treatment until 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday while showing up at 8 a.m. to get it ready on Friday.

The extra work paid off in impressive fashion.

"There's a lot on Kenny's plate. He played very well. The (morning after the sprain), he was stiff and sore. We moved him around, but he was fine. I really didn't see any signs from him that would make me say it was a problem or a concern."

After starting the game 0-9 from the field, Boynton and Wilbekin led the offense to shoot 18-for-32 the rest of the first half to make a comfortable 18-point advantage into the locker room.

The second half had a similar feel to the start of the game.

UCF started out on an 11-0 run to cut the score to 42-35 before Donovan called a timeout to regroup. The touted Florida defense didn't show up in the second half, allowing UCF to score 42 points while shooting 57.1% (12-21) from the field and 80% (8-10) from behind the three-point line.

It gave Donovan a negative to take into his team's next practice after the big win.

"I know there has been a lot of talk about our defense and what has been done the first four games, but I really think we have a long, long way to go defensively," Donovan said. "I didn't think we were aware, alert or rotating."

Florida's next game comes when it hosts Marquette on Thursday at 9 p.m.

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