Middle Tennessee's 'core guys' come up short

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis needed his key guys to come up big.

Without them, the Blue Raiders had little chance at No. 16 Florida.

Tweety Knight, Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds combined for 15 points and eight turnovers, a big issue in a 79-59 loss to the Gators.

"You've got to get your core guys to play when you're playing a top team on the road," Davis said. "We just got nothing out of them. All three of those guys have been playing well for us, but when you get on the road here, those guys have to play."

Knight finished with four points, four fouls and three turnovers. Jones had six points and two turnovers. Hammonds was really off, shooting 1 of 7 from the field.

Neiko Hunter led Middle Tennessee (4-1) with 14 points. Jaqawn Raymond (13) and Eric Wortham (11) also finished in double figures.

"Neiko's activity level was pretty good all night, but we didn't get a lot of leadership," Davis said.

Equally troubling for Davis was his team's defensive effort. Florida made 16 of 25 shots (64 percent) in the second half, turning a single-digit game into a 20-point bulge.

"No one really guarded," Davis said.

Florida surely did.

The Gators held their fourth consecutive opponent under 60 points.

But the main story line for coach Billy Donovan's team was how it fared without a true point guard. The Gators struggled early _ Donovan called it "painful to watch" _ but the coach simplified things at halftime and his team pulled away.

Patric Young led the way with 16 points, one of six Florida players in double figures. Without point guards Scottie Wilbekin (suspension) and Kasey Hill (ankle), the Gators had nearly as many guys handling the ball.

"With a limited bench, no point guard and playing against a good team, I thought our defense was constant the whole entire game and I thought our offense was really good in the second half," Donovan said. "We were really balanced. ... We did a lot of different things."

The Gators won their 19th consecutive game at home, this one thanks to a dominant start to the second half.

Florida (4-1) came out of the locker room and outscored the Blue Raiders 18-6 over the first 5 1/2 minutes. DeVon Walker got the run started with a 3-pointer, and then the Gators went inside.

Young had a dunk, and Jacob Kurtz and Dorian Finney-Smith followed with three-point plays. Leading scorer Casey Prather, who played just 4 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, made two free throws and added a three-point play. In between, he found Michael Frazier II on the break for a layup.

Finney-Smith finished with 14 points for the Gators. Frazier (13), Prather (11), Will Yeguete (10) and Walker (10) also reached double figures.

"They played like a top-15 team tonight," Davis said.

The Gators won their 20th consecutive game against non-conference opponents. The latest one was notable because of the point guard situation.

"Not having a point guard definitely raised our sense of aggressiveness because we were like a wounded animal," Frazier said. "We don't have all our pieces, so we had to go in there and be aggressive and fight."

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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