Last night under the bright lights of a national television audience, a sell out crowd and playing in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden the University of Florida Gators were able to hold off a talented Memphis team 77-75. The Gators entered the game ranked 16th in the latest polls while the Tigers were the 15th best team in college basketball according to the polls.
For the Gators senior Casey Prather led the way as he led the way in scoring with 22 points. But it was his play in the final moments of the game that sealed the win for Florida.
Prather made two free throws with 27 seconds left to give Florida (8-2) a 77-73 lead. Shaq Goodwin made two free throws with 19 seconds left to bring Memphis (7-2) to 77-75.
Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 17 seconds left giving the Tigers a chance for the tie or win.
After calling a timeout with 10.8 seconds to go, Memphis’ Joe Jackson drove to the basket but his shot was partially blocked and the clock ran out when the ball was hit by Dorian Finney-Smith toward midcourt.
Florida shot 51.9 percent from the field (28 of 54), including 7 of 16 from 3-point range, while Memphis shot 47.4 percent (27 of 57) and was 6 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Florida was able to give itself some breathing room in the second half with an 11-3 run that gave the Gators a 69-61 lead with 5:55 to go. Freshman Kasey Hill had five of the points.
The Tigers got back in a hurry with a drive by Jackson and a 3 by Crawford that made it 69-66 with 4:08 to play.
The Gators’ two losses were to No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 10 Connecticut, both on the road. They beat No. 18 Kansas 67-61 last Tuesday at home, a game in which they forced 24 turnovers.