- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Florida bounced back from a lackluster performance with a lopsided victory.

Dorian Finney-Smith scored 20 points, Devin Robinson added 15 and the Gators beat Vermont 86-62 Wednesday.

Kasey Hill chipped in 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting for Florida (4-1), which faded down the stretch Sunday and lost to Purdue by 15 points. Coach Mike White’s team played with much more energy three days later, leading wire-to-wire in the win.

“I just thought that this was by far our most mature performance in terms of offensive and defensive decisions, especially in the second half with not fouling as much,” White said.

Vermont whittled a 16-point deficit to 50-44 on Cam Ward’s 3-pointer with a little more than 12 minutes remaining, but the Gators pulled away thanks to Hill’s behind-the-back reverse layup and a barraged of baskets from behind the arc.

Finney-Smith, Hill and Brandone Francis-Ramirez hit consecutive 3-pointers that turned an 11-point lead into a laugher. The Gators extended their lead to 20 on Robinson’s second 3 and coasted from there.

“I thought we really settled in early second half, strung together some stops and then got into an offensive rhythm led by Dorian Finney-Smith,” White said.

Ward led the Catamounts (2-4) with 14 points. Ernie Duncan added 13, and Ethan O’Day had 12.

Florida struggled in the first half - a common occurrence this season - but wore down Vermont after the break.

The Gators made 19 of 38 shots in the second half and ended up forcing 17 turnovers with their pressing, full-court defense.

“It felt good,” Finney-Smith said. “Coach challenged us to go out there and shoot the ball with confidence, and we made a lot of shots.”

Finney-Smith led Florida with three 3s and finished with six rebounds, a career-high six assists and three steals. He also was 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.

John Egbunu had 13 points and seven boards for the Gators, but also had four turnovers. Hill finished with four assists and no turnovers.

“I thought Florida played harder than us, especially in the second half,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “They really came out determined in the second half and got off to a good start. They made a lot of 3s in the second half. I thought they wanted the game more than us and played harder.”

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WILLS RETURNS

Junior Dre Wills scored seven points in his season debut. Wills, who started every game last season, missed the first five games while recovering from a hamstring injury. He played 13 minutes against the Gators. “We have to get healthy and we have to get better,” Becker said.

SHORT TURNAROUND

Florida is back on the floor in about 48 hours, leaving the team with little time to prepare for Florida Gulf Coast. In fact, White said he knew little about the Eagles outside of a few players he recruited while at Louisiana Tech.

“I do know a couple of guys on their roster,” he said. “I know they were talented. Of course, I know the run they had a few years ago. As I told our guys, at the mid-major level, I’m very familiar with the opportunities, the few that you have, to play the Oklahomas or the Arkansases or the LSUs or what have you. For Florida Gulf Coast to have an opportunity to play the University of Florida, I’m sure we’re going to get their best shot.”

TIP-INS

Vermont: Finished 1-3 in the Hall of Fame Tipoff, beating Niagara and losing to Purdue, Buffalo and Florida. … Fell to 0-3 all-time against Florida.

Florida: Went 20-of-28-from the free-throw line. … Improved to 8-0 all-time against teams currently in the America East Conference. … Finished 8-of-23 from 3-point range.

UP NEXT

Vermont hosts Marist on Sunday.

Florida hosts Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night.

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