Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/22/11
GAINESVILLE, Fla. No one knew at the time what was about to come, but once the job was finished, Gators freshman Bradley Beal's fingerprints were everywhere. Beal's prints were on a layup, a free throw, a dunk and a three-pointer a wave of points that helped UF pull away in Thursday night's 82-64 win over Florida State. The Gators owned a slim 38-36 lead when Beal, the highly touted freshman playing in his 12th career game, was on the receiving end of a pass from teammate Will Yeguete, who had just stolen the ball from FSU point guard Luke Loucks. Beal scored on a layup and was fouled. His free throw pushed the Gators' lead to five and the sequence ignited a 15-2 Florida run that essentially put the game away as the Gators won their third in a row over the Seminoles. Beal scored eight of Florida's 15 points in the spurt his three-pointer capped the run and gave the Gators a 53-38 lead further solidifying his role as an emerging threat that plays beyond his 18 years. Beal finished with a game-high 21 points and added six rebounds and three steals. He finished the game much better than he started hitting a long three-pointer with a little more than a minute remaining for Florida's final points. "The first play of the game I felt dumb because I got my shot blocked by a 7-footer," Beal said. "I should have been smarter than that. Those guys are real big." Beal was bigger in the end, scoring 16 points in the second half and finished 4 of 8 from three-point range in the second-highest scoring game of his career. Beal has scored 22 points twice this season but not against a team that plays defense like the Seminoles. FSU was limiting opponents to only 57.8 points entering the game. "People underestimate our defense," Beal said. "We beat them off our defense really, our pressing and trapping." Beal played a team-high 36 minutes and his outside shooting helped overcome the struggles of guards Erving Walker (1 of 7) and Kenny Boynton (5 of 13) from beyond the arc. Beal's effort also helped offset the absence of guard Mike Rosario. Rosario missed his second consecutive game due to back pain. "The fact they didn't have Rosario didn't seem to bother them at all," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I'm sure a lot of people are going to be scratching their heads trying to figure out how to stop them." If what Hamilton said is the case, then Beal will be part of the reason why. He has scored in double-figures in 10 of 12 games and continues to adjust to the collegiate game with the smoothness of a jazz singer on Beale Street. He is playing exactly the way Florida coach Billy Donovan envisioned. "I think Brad is fine. Brad always plays within himself," Donovan said. "When he's open, he shoots it. He's got freedom to do that. He's just the kind of kid that never wants to come across as being selfish, and he's not selfish. "I do think he is probably feeling more and more comfortable, but it's not so much that we're asking him to do more. He feels like he needs to more. I think he is understanding where shots need to come from." After his first shot of the game was blocked by Xavier Gibson on Thursday, Beal got better and better with each minute ticking from the clock. Not all freshmen respond that way in a big in-state rivalry game, but if we know anything about Beal, he is not your typical freshman. He continues to prove that by averaging more than 15 points and six rebounds a game, often appearing as a calm traffic cop in the middle of traffic buzzing by on I-75. "He does a great job at waiting his turn," Boynton said. "He doesn't force anything. I think he did a great job at taking good shots. I think it was his night." It turned out that way. That final shot was the perfect ending. "I'm a lot more comfortable," Beal said. "Throughout my stretch tonight I was kind of a little sluggish. I didn't hit as many shots as I wanted to, but I just developed my confidence back. Coach and the players just keep telling me to shoot and not worry about it."
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