TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Middle Tennessee wasn't intimidated by No. 10 Florida.
The Blue Raiders got physical with the bigger, stronger Gators, playing the kind of defense coach Kermit Davis felt they had to play to have a chance Sunday. They just couldn't do it for 40 minutes in a 66-45 loss.
"Last year we won at UCLA, we won at Tennessee, we beat Ole Miss on a neutral-court game in Mississippi. So we come in, we expect to win these kind of games," Davis said. "Florida was too good today, and we didn't have enough guys play well."
Kenny Boynton scored 20 points and put an exclamation mark on the victory by scoring his Florida's final 13 points. The senior moved into sixth place on the school's career scoring list while helping the Gators (3-0) remain unbeaten.
"He got some late. I thought we did a good job on Boynton," Davis said. "The game was kind of over, and he made some. He's a really good player."
Will Yeguete had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Gators, who opened the second half with a 14-2 run and never looked back. Middle Tennessee (2-1) trimmed a 15-point deficit to nine before Mike Rosario finished a fast-break with a dunk and Boynton hit a 3-pointer to put the game away.
Marcos Knight led Middle Tennessee with 12 points and Shawn Jones added 10 for the Blue Raiders, who played tough, disruptive defense early and trailed 29-26 at halftime.
Middle Tennessee returned 10 of its top 12 scorers from last season, when the Blue Raiders went 27-7 on the way to the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Sunday was the team's first game against a ranked team since a 75-54 loss to Tennessee on Dec. 11, 2009.
"I thought we competed. We came in thinking a critical stat was going to be rebounding, and we ended up outrebounding them in the second half," Davis said.
"That's a good team. They're well put-together, obviously. Extremely well coached, and they've just got every part. They've got shooters, they've got bigs, they've got experience," Davis added. "I was proud of our guys. We missed some shots maybe we normally make, but the telling stat is we shot 32 percent and we gave up 47 percent. Got beat by a good team."
The Gators turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, limiting the Blue Raiders to 27 percent shooting after the break. Middle Tennessee missed seven of eight shots while the Gators were taking control over an eight-minute stretch.
Patric Young had nine points and 10 rebounds for Florida, which led by three at the half despite shooting 39 percent and not getting much offensive production from its top two scorers, Erik Murphy and Boynton, who began game needing four points to move ahead of Dwayne Schintzius into sixth place on the school's career scoring list.
"In the first half, their guards were really pressuring our guards, and they were out in the passing lanes, so they had the floor very, very much extended," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We got the ball inside a few times and our post guys did not do a great job of finishing plays, or even making plays for that matter."
Murphy, coming off shooitng 10-for-10 and scoring a career-best 24 in an 18-point win over No. 22 Wisconsin, didn't even attempt a shot until making a 3-pointer midway through the opening half. He finished 2 of 4 with six points, well below the 19.7 he averaged in the Gators' first two games.
Boynton, averaging 16, missed his first four shots and didn't score until making a pair of free throws with just over a minute to play in the half. The senior guard finished with a flourish, though, delivering three 3-pointers and two more free throws to eliminate any hopes Middle Tennessee had of coming from behind before an announced crowd of 7,161 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"I thought their length bothered us around the goal. I thought they guarded our ball screens well. We had some hustle plays; we just couldn't get it in the rim," Davis said. "We had some at three, four or five feet, but again, I think their length bothered us. They're a good defensive team."