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Gators go cold in 68-66 loss

Unlikely West Virginia freshman sinks UF with a last-minute 3-pointer.

©Associated Press
December 4, 2002

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Joe Herber was one of the last players West Virginia coach John Beilein wanted to take a shot with the game on the line.

But Herber, a freshman from Germany, hit a long jumper with 50 seconds left to give West Virginia the lead, and the Mountaineers held on to upset No. 8 Florida 68-66 Tuesday night.

"I couldn't lie to you and say I told him to shoot it. I didn't. I told him to run something else," Beilein said. "Thank God he didn't listen."

West Virginia overcame Florida's full-court press and a nine-point deficit in the second half to beat a ranked opponent for the first time in six tries.

Florida, playing the third of a four-game road trip, looked nothing like the team that beat then-No. 2 Kansas in last week's Preseason NIT consolation game.

The loss was the first in December for Florida since 1998, a span of 23 games.

"If we would have won that game, we wouldn't have deserved it," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "West Virginia played with more heart and intensity."

The Gators briefly built a double-digit lead in the first half but struggled against a West Virginia team under a first-year coach that starts three freshmen and two sophomores.

"This is a highlight in our season, but not the highlight of the season," Beilein said. "This is a great step forward for our program."

The Gators took the lead five minutes into the game and held it until Herber's basket put the Mountaineers ahead 66-64. Herber was supposed to pass to leading scorer Drew Schifino on a screen.

Herber had sustained a cut on the top of his shooting hand a few minutes before, and he briefly left the game to get the wound bandaged.

Herber entered the game 1-of-10 from 3-point range but said he never lost confidence in his shot.

After the go-ahead basket, Schifino grabbed a miss by Florida freshman Matt Walsh, was fouled and hit a free throw with 37 seconds left for a three-point lead.

Matt Bonner, who led Florida with 18 points, hit a jump hook with 24 seconds left to make it 67-66. West Virginia freshman Jarmon Durisseau-Collins made a free throw with 19 seconds left to end the scoring.

Florida's Brett Nelson had a shot blocked by Schifino with five seconds left, and Nelson's off-balance try with one second left fell short.

Despite shooting 51 percent from the field, Florida managed just one basket over the final five minutes.

"Our guys didn't drive the lane very well at all," Donovan said. "They just really didn't execute."

Schifino, a sophomore, led West Virginia with 16 points, six under his average. Sophomore Tyrone Sally had 13, Herber 11.

David Lee had 17 points for Florida, and Walsh, who had 22 against Kansas last week, was held to six.

The two normally sure-handed teams were sloppy in the first half: Florida had 11 turnovers, and the Mountaineers matched their season average for an entire game with eight.

Florida found its focus at the start of the second half, scoring the first eight to pull ahead 38-29, but the lead never got back to double digits.

The game was arranged so Nelson could play before a hometown crowd. The native of St. Albans, 15 minutes outside Charleston, started his first game after returning from a stress fracture in his foot. He was limited to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes.

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