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Published September 18, 2015
Michael Frazier II scored 14 points, highly touted freshman Chris Walker had two crowd-pleasing dunks in his debut and No. 3 Florida beat Missouri 68-58 on Tuesday night.
The Gators won their 14th consecutive game and extended a school record with their 28th straight victory at home.
Frazier came up huge in the latest one. The sophomore drained three 3-pointers in a 2-minute span in the second half, giving Florida some breathing room in a tight, back-and-forth game.
Patric Young's driving layup with 4:10 remaining gave the Gators (20-2, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) a 58-48 lead.
Missouri's 3-point shooting kept the Tigers (16-6, 4-5) in it for much of the game.
Missouri made 8 of 21 from behind the arc, but just 4 of 13 in the second half. The Tigers went more than 4 minutes without a point, a stretch that helped Florida build its biggest lead.
Jabari Brown led the Tigers with 15 points while Jordan Clarkson added 14.
Scottie Wilbekin finished with a career-high 19 points for the Gators. He was 13 of 16 from the free throw line, most of them down the stretch. Young chipped in 13 points and six rebounds.
Florida coach Billy Donovan notched his 16th consecutive 20-win season. Only Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski have longer active streaks.
Donovan's current team has some issues — shaky free throw shooting and few long-range threats outside Frazier — but the addition of Walker could increase Florida's chances of making another deep run in the NCAA tournament.
A forward from Bonifay in Florida's panhandle, Walker sat out 12 games, or 40 percent of the season, because the NCAA determined he "received preferential treatment from five people, including two agents." The NCAA said Walker and people close to him accepted free cellphones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel while he was a prospect.
He was ordered to donate the $270 received from the agents to a charity of his choice and serve 80 hours of community service.
Walker, who failed to qualify academically and spent the fall taking online classes to gain eligibility, joined the team Dec. 14 and has been practicing since. His debut had been much-anticipated.
Walker, who drew ooh's and aah's with every move during pregame warm-ups, entered the game to a standing ovation with 11:28 remaining in the first half. His first few minutes on the court gave Florida fans even more to celebrate.
Walker blocked two shots and pulled down a rebound in just 3 minutes. There was some obvious confusion, especially on the defensive end, but he showed surprising poise considering all the hype, the wait, the atmosphere and the opponent.
He was even better in his second stint.
Walker had two thunderous dunks in the final 2:07 of the half, finishing alley-oops from fellow freshman Kasey Hill. The second one had the O'Connell Center rocking — but just briefly.
Brown hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer a few seconds later, giving Missouri a 28-25 lead.