No. 16 Gators hold off No. 15 Memphis in the Jimmy V Classic

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Gators forward Casey Prather scored Florida’s final eight points and finished with 22 as the Gators beat the Memphis Tigers, 77-75, despite 17 turnovers in a non-conference showdown at Madison Square Garden last night.

This matchup between these two under-ranked teams on a neutral floor felt more like a game in late March than mid-December.

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Dorian Finney-Smith totaled 14 points and six rebounds off Florida’s bench, while guard’s Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II each chipped in 11 points for the Gators (8-2), who were coming off another quality win over nationally- ranked Kansas. Florida senior Pat Young added eight points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 19 seconds remaining

Memphis guard Joe Jackson had a team-high 17 points for Memphis (7-2), which had a six-game winning streak snapped despite five players scoring in double figures.

Memphis took its first lead, 36-35, on a Shaq Goodwin steal and layup with less than three minutes remaining in the opening half.

The Gators had gotten out to a fast start and led by double-digits, 18-8, less than 7 1/2 minutes in. Despite the Tigers’ own hot shooting stretch, Florida took a 41-38 lead into the break thanks to scoring six of the final eight points in the half.

Memphis’ Chris Crawford scored all 12 of his points from behind the arc, including a deep make that evened things at 58-58 with 10 1/2 minutes remaining.

The Tigers, though, went the next five-plus minutes without making a field goal, and the drought helped the Gators push their lead to 69-61 following a Kasey Hill 3-pointer with six minutes to play.

A jumper from Jackson and another 3-pointer by Crawford pulled the Tigers back within one possession, but Jackson missed a potential tying 3-pointer the next time down.

Prather scored on consecutive possessions to keep Florida in the driver’s seat, at least temporarily, as two misses on the front end of a 1-and-1 by Finney-Smith and Wilbekin kept the Tigers within striking distance at 77-75.

Coming out of a timeout with 10 seconds left, Joe Jackson dribbled into the lane before Florida’s interior defense caused enough of a disturbance to force a miss and secure the win.

Memphis lost for the first time in its last five meetings against SEC opponents, and Florida improved to 5-3 in games played at Madison Square Garden under Billy Donovan.

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