GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Marshall led No. 24 Florida at halftime but could not hold on as the Gators used a big second-half surge to earn a 73-67 win over the Thundering Herd Friday night at Exactech Arena.
Marshall trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half before a late 9-0 run that featured a Luke Thomas 3-pointer and Iran Bennett 3-point play pulled the Herd back within 69-67 in the final minute.
Florida (6-2) was able to make a couple of key defensive plays in the ensuing possessions to earn the win.
Marshall led by eight at the half but the game started to turn in the favor of the Gators early in the second half as they used size and athleticism to get the Herd in foul trouble. A defensive presence that forced turnovers also helped to turn the tide.
The game’s biggest turning point came over a three-minute stretch as Florida used its defense to turn to offense during a 13-3 run that took a one-possession game and ballooned it into a 13-point advantage for the Gators following five straight points from Noah Locke.
In addition to Locke, Keyontae Johnson was a second-half catalyst for Florida.
The reigning SEC Player of the Week went scoreless in the first half and saw foul trouble hit early, but rebounded to score 13 points in the final 20 minutes to lead the Gators to the win.
Marshall (2-4) got 16 points and six rebounds from Bennett, who was forced to the bench in the first minute of the second half after a pair of fouls in a 53-second stretch.
Prior to that, Bennett had helped lead Marshall to a 33-25 advantage with his inside presence.
The Herd also got 15 points, six rebounds and four blocks from Jannson Williams and 14 points from Taevion Kinsey.
Marshall led 33-25 at the break, but the Gators used a 10-2 run to open the second half to knot things up before taking their first lead since midway through the first half on their first 3-pointer of the game — a triple from Locke that forged a 42-39 advantage. Prior to that, the Gators missed their first 11 attempts from the long range.
Locke’s connection started a run of three straight 3-pointers for the Gators, who edged out the lead before the 13-3 run pushed it to its top spread at 63-50.
Florida’s second-half shooting was a contrast to the opening 20 minutes, when Marshall’s defense led the team to a 33-25 advantage, which included keeping the Gators without a field goal over the final three minutes.
That first-half defense was led by Darius George, who had three early steals before hitting a 3-pointer to give the Herd its first lead at 16-14.
Marshall would not relinquish the lead until Locke’s 3-pointer with 13:24 left.
Early on, Ques Glover kept the Gators in it, scoring 10 of his team-high 14 points before halftime. Locke and Kerry Blackshear each added 10 in the win.
Marshall returns to action on Wednesday when the Herd hosts Akron at Cam Henderson Center.