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Florida hits short-handed West Virginia from long range

By The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 31, 2016 at 2:19 AM

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 on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Forward Dorian Finney-Smith scored 24 points by mixing two thunderous dunks with 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range as the Gators (14-7) rolled to an RPI-fortifying victory.

Guard KeVaughn Allen added 19 points, making all nine of his free throws.

"We've had games where we were off-the-charts defensively and couldn't throw it in the ocean," Gators coach Mike White said. "But today we put it all together."

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 from beyond the arc before finishing 12-of-20.

That signified rare shooting for Florida, ranked 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," Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins joked.

Playing without the suspended Holton, who fronts the full-court press, West Virginia's defense sprung numerous leaks and surrendered its most points since February 2014.

Florida shot 53 percent overall, compared to the Mountaineers' 43 percent.

Guards Tarik Phillip and Jaysean Paige 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.

"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 a span of 32 seconds and committed a third with 6:23 left in the half. About a minute later, Phillip also picked up his third.

Both were on the bench when Florida closed the half on a 14-3 run to lead 45-30.

"They shot the crap out of it," Paige said.

Florida, 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," Finney-Smith said. "We just came out, took care of the ball and play great. We showed each other what we're capable of."

NOTES: F Dorian Finny-Smith surpassed the 1,000-point career mark Saturday. ... Florida played without F Justin Leon (concussion-like symptoms). ... West Virginia fell to 0-3 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge after previous losses to Missouri and LSU. ... F Jonathan Holton started 55 consecutive games since becoming eligible at West Virginia last season. ... Gators reserve F Kevarrius Hayes went down because of an apparent leg injury early in the second half before returning three minutes later.

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