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Gators top Georgia to earn fourth straight win
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton have pretty much carried Florida through Southeastern Conference play.

They finally got some help against Georgia.

Alex Tyus made 10 of 14 shots, scored a season-high 23 points and led the Gators to an 87-71 victory over the Bulldogs on Wednesday night.

“That’s huge. I want that from Alex every night,” Walker said. “I know he’s very capable of doing that, and I’ve seen him do it a lot of times. He’s been play well, but he really broke out tonight. He used his quickness.”

Walker and Boynton added 21 points apiece for the Gators (15-5, 4-2 SEC), who extended their winning streak to four and continued their recent domination in the series. They have won 12 of the last 13 meetings.

This one wasn’t really close.

Florida exposed Georgia’s ball-handling skills with a relentless press. The Bulldogs (9-9, 1-4) finished with 19 turnovers, most of them in a decisive first half, and gave up 13 offensive rebounds.

The Gators finished with 40 points in the paint, 33 points off turnovers and 13 points on fast breaks.

Tyus did most of the damage inside. He scored 15 points in the second half, most of them coming on dunks and layups. He also hit a couple of short jumpers, highlighting the most improved part of his game.

“He wore us out,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We didn’t stand up to him, didn’t play any defense at all.”

Trey Thompkins led Georgia with 24 points and six rebounds. Ricky McPhee added 21 points, most of them coming on five 3-pointers. They made a combined 18 of 23 shots for Georgia, but neither stopped Tyus, Walker and Boynton on the other end.

“We didn’t defend, that’s the bottom line,” Thompkins said. “We didn’t defend and we didn’t take care of the ball. Those are two things that killed us tonight.”

The Bulldogs trailed by double digits most of the way. They cut the lead to 71-63 with 5:40 remaining, but Florida responded with a flurry that sealed the victory.

Walker hit two free throws, Vernon Macklin converted a three-point play and Boynton capped an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer that allowed the Gators to cruise down the stretch.

Georgia, meanwhile, never found the kind of offensive rhythm that helped it upset Tennessee last weekend and left Gainesville with its eighth straight loss against the Gators.

Florida led 45-33 at halftime and went ahead by 14 to open the second half. Travis Leslie got a few easy buckets, and Georgia looked like it would make a comeback, but Walker and Tyus ended the threat.

The duo hooked up on three consecutive possessions to give the Gators a 16-point lead.

Walker found Tyus cutting through the lane for a dunk, then hit him with a bounce pass that resulted in a three-point play. They followed with an alley-oop on a fast break that was one of Tyus’ more emphatic dunks of the season.

“Alex lately has been coming on a lot,” Boynton said. “He’s hitting that mid-range shot and he’s finishing down low. He had a great day today inside and out.”

Walker finished with a career-high 10 assists. He also made four of six shots from 3-point range, making him 23 of 37 (62 percent) from behind the arc in conference play.

“You have to come out (and guard him) right now because he has a level of confidence shooting the ball, and that’s what you want,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said.

Tyus performance might be what Donovan’s needs.

Either Walker or Boynton had led Florida in scoring in each of the previous five conference games. But Donovan was hoping someone would step up and take some of the load off them.

Tyus did.

“Coach told us to get an inside presence and that really helped us out,” Tyus said.
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