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Sports

Defensive dominance

Florida Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 08:38 PM
GAINESVILLE -

It was the SEC's best offense vs. the league's best defense.

The defense won easily.

Fourth-ranked Florida shut down No. 16 Ole Miss, the nation's fifth-leading offense, at several clutch moments and proved that five is better than one when it comes to scoring — putting four players in double figures as the Rebels' SEC-leading scorer Marshall Henderson totaled 25 points. As a result, the Gators ran their winning streak to 10 with a 78-64 win Saturday.

"This is my seventh Florida team to play,'' Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. "One of those was the national championship team that had NBA lottery picks on it. I don't ever remember a Florida team guarding with that intensity.''

It's the Gators' longest winning streak since the 2008-09 season and the 10th time the program has won at least 10 straight, eight coming under current coach Billy Donovan.

UF (18-2, 8-0 SEC) came into the game giving up just more than 50 points a game, ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring defense.

"It was tough guarding him,'' said Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin, who finished with 13 points and seven assists while handling the majority of the role of stopping Henderson, with teammate Kenny Boynton also taking some turns. "I was trying my best on defense but he still got up shots. … I have more respect for him than I did at the start of the game.''

Henderson, like teammates, vanished at clutch moments when the Rebels (17-4, 6-2) needed points the most.

"I think (Florida) will contend for the national championship,'' Henderson said. "We have seen how they have been blowing people out. They execute perfectly. They make open shots and good teams make open shots — and then they make tough shots. They're a really good team; that's why they're ranked No. 4 and will probably move up. I see them being No. 1 in the country by the end of the season.''

No. 1 Michigan and No. 2 Kansas both lost Saturday, and Florida could rise to No. 2 in the next poll.

"We can be really good, we've just got to keep up our focus,'' said forward Erik Murphy, who had a team-high 19 points while hitting all but one of his six attempts behind the arc. "We've got to keep guarding; it's the biggest thing. There are going to be nights when the ball doesn't go in like it did tonight and we've got to hold teams under their average.''

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