GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 9 West Virginia missed forward Jonathan Holton and Florida seemingly could not miss from 3-point range during an 88-71 upset in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Dorian Finney-Smith scored 24 points by mixing two thunderous dunks with 5-of-7 shooting from 3 as the Gators (14-7) rolled to an RPI-fortifying victory. Guard KeVaughn Allen added 19 points, making all nine free throws.
“We’ve had games where we were off-the-charts defensively and couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” said Gators coach Mike White. “But today we put it all together. No way did I think we would score 88 points against West Virginia.”
West Virginia (17-4) entered the game ranked second nationally in 3-point defense (26.8 percent) only to see the Gators start 5-of-7 before finishing 12-of-20. That signified rare shooting for Florida, ranked just 286th in Division I in 3-point accuracy (31.8 percent).
The hot shooting became so contagious reserve guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez, a 12-percent long-range shooter, went 3-for-3.
“The way the ball was going in, I’m surprised Mike (White) didn’t make one,” joked Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins.
Playing without the suspended Holton, who fronts the full-court press, WVU’s defense sprang numerous leaks and surrendered its most points since February 2014. Florida shot 53 percent overall, compared to the Mountaineers’ 43 percent.
Reserves Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip led West Virginia with 15 points each. Devin Williams finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds but shot only 4 of 15 from the floor, struggling to make shots at the rim against Florida’s big men.
“They’re athletic, long and like getting up and down,” Williams said. “Their record doesn’t show how good they are.”
Paige picked up two fouls in the span of 32 seconds and committed a third with 6:23 left in the half. About a minute later, Phillip picked up his third also. Both were on the bench when Florida closed the hall on a 14-3 run to lead 45-30.
“They shot the crap out of it, “ Paige said.
Florida, now 2-5 against the RPI top 50, earned a marquee win under their first-year coach. White credited increased toughness: “If we had played West Virginia two months ago, I don’t think we would have had any shot.”
The Gators also committed 14 turnovers and forced 18, flipping the script on West Virginia’s pressure defense.
“We press a lot too, so we prepare just by going against each other every day,” said Finney-Smith. “We just came out, took care of the ball and played great. We showed each other what we’re capable of.”
Not up to challenge: West Virginia fell to 0-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge after previous losses to Missouri and LSU.
Gators benchmark: Florida played without forward Justin Leon (concussion-like symptoms) yet beat a top-10 opponent for the first time since the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Adrian heats up, Carter still cold: Nathan Adrian (4-of-5 shooting) scored 10 points for the second straight game, while Jevon Carter finished with nine points on 3-of-10. During the past five games, Carter has made only 9-of-39 shots overall and 3-of-23 from 3-point range.