SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Florida Gators guard Michael Frazier II needed 14 stitches in his forehead following a bloody collision with an opponent in the first half of the Orange Bowl Classic.
Later he picked up another souvenir: the outstanding player trophy. He was surprised to win and credited a sympathy vote.
”It was probably just because I got hurt,” Frazier said.
If Frazier wasn’t really the game’s outstanding player, he was the comeback player, finishing with 12 points to help Florida beat sloppy Wake Forest 63-50.
The Gators improved to 7-4 with their fourth consecutive victory, and the Demon Deacons fell to 5-6 with their fourth loss in the past five games.
A head-to-head collision with Aaron Rountree III midway through the first half left Frazier sprawled on the court, his face and the hardwood bloodied. Gators coach Billy Donovan hurried out to check on his player’s cut.
”I was really kind of taken aback at how deep and wide and opened up he was,” Donovan said. ”It was a very, very serious cut.”
Frazier walked slowly to the locker room, where he was treated and passed a concussion test.
”I just wanted to get back out on the court and help the team win,” Frazier said. He returned to start the second half wearing a bandage.
Rountree took a shot to the mouth in the collision and was dazed but also returned to the game.
Frazier thought the outstanding player trophy would go to Dorian Finney-Smith, who scored 16 points and had four of the Gators’ season-high 17 steals.
Wake Forest tied a season high with 24 turnovers and shot just 37 percent.
”We didn’t handle their pressure well,” coach Danny Manning said. ”They scored far too many points off turnovers.”
Codi Miller-McIntyre converted a four-point play for the Demon Deacons to trim their deficit to 52-49 with 5:10 left, but they were then shut out until the final seconds.
”It’s hard to get a shot when you’re turning the ball over,” said Miller-McIntyre, who led Wake Forest with 16 points.
The Demon Deacons played without guard Mitchell Wilbekin, who was suspended for up to six games because of an undisclosed NCAA violation. School officials made the announcement about two hours before the game and said they would appeal.
Manning described the loss of Wilbekin as a surprise but tried to shrug it off.
”Whoever’s out there, our expectations don’t change,” Manning said.
The Demon Deacons trailed 39-29 with 14 1/2 minutes left, but closed to within a point down the stretch and had the ball three times with a chance to take the lead.
Donovan recalled how the Gators had crumbled in other games in similar situations.
”For the first time this year when it has been like that, I saw some internal fight,” he said. ”That was encouraging to me, because a lot of times it’s not about looking or playing pretty. It comes down to who’s the most competitive.”
Florida: Former Duke forward Alex Murphy made his debut for the Gators and had nine points off the bench. Murphy was declared eligible shortly before the game after he received his grades for the fall semester.
”It felt good to get out there and get my feet wet,” he said.
Wake Forest: Forward Devin Thomas had nine rebounds and seven points, but he committed 10 turnovers.
Florida guard Eli Carter missed the game because he’s battling strep throat and has lost 13 pounds. Donovan said he hopes Carter will be available for the Gators’ next game.
Florida plays at Florida State on Dec. 30.
Wake Forest plays host to Bucknell on Monday.