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UF helps Bulls beat themselves

USF turns it over 20 times, gets little from top players in 68-52 Gators win.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 9, 2002


GAINESVILLE -- For four straight games, South Florida relied on double-figure scoring from at least three players and the strong play of seniors Reggie Kohn and Will McDonald.

The first time neither played well, it was costly for the Bulls.

Kohn and McDonald, who entered averaging double figures, combined for 14 points (three for Kohn), and the Bulls committed 20 turnovers, helping No. 8 Florida to a 68-52 win in front of 9,223 Sunday afternoon at the O'Connell Center.

The Gators (6-2) handed the Bulls (4-1) their first loss for the second straight season.

"Overall, our defensive fundamentals were terrific," USF coach Seth Greenberg said. "We just didn't take very good care of the ball, plain and simple. That wasn't our best basketball, but I'm proud of how we played and how we defended."

With the knowledge of how well Kohn has been playing (averaging 12.3 points, 4 rebounds and nearly 8 assists), Florida coach Billy Donovan did the smart thing: He put senior Justin Hamilton on him.

Hamilton, one of the best defenders in the Southeastern Conference, held Kohn to one shot (a 3-pointer), three assists and no rebounds.

"I thought one of the big keys going in was our ability to defend Kohn," Donovan said. "We told Justin to full-court pressure him and told him he's not allowed to get any shots off. That also required not only taking away the 3-point line but also to deflect passes because he's 10 assists away from being the Conference USA all-time assist leader."

With its defense keeping USF's top players off balance, Florida's offensive weapons went to work. Florida took a 15-point lead into halftime, aided by 16 points from freshman guard Anthony Roberson.

With the Gators leading 25-17, USF forward Terrence Leather was called for an intentional foul on Roberson, who responded by hitting two free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers that extended the Gators' lead to 33-19 with 5:11 left in the half.

"I was heated," Roberson said. "I was pretty mad. He didn't really hurt me and coach called me down."

Added Donovan: "In the first half, I thought Anthony's play coming off the bench, how he shot the ball against their zone, opened things up for us."

The Gators dunked six times in the first half, including the first eight points for sophomore David Lee (16 points, five rebounds). Florida had 21 assists on its 25 baskets.

Florida was aided by an oddity: It committed one foul in the first half, four in the game. The Bulls were called for 16 fouls and had two free-throw attempts, fewest in a Gators game since 1978-79. Florida was 9-of-13 from the line.

"They are a very clean basketball team, what can I say?" Greenberg said. "I've never played in a game like that. If they didn't call them, they weren't fouls. The sad thing is that we turned it over (20) times and they only committed four fouls. They weren't even close enough to foul us, but we turned it over."

USF had a chance to rally early in the second half. Trailing 45-32 five minutes in, the Bulls got several key defensive stops but couldn't convert on the offensive end, either committing turnovers or missing key shots.

"We were getting the stops we needed to get, but once you get stops you have to convert their miscues into baskets," Greenberg said.

Jimmy Baxter led the Bulls with 13 points. McDonald had 11 points and nine rebounds and Leather added nine points and seven rebounds.

Matt Bonner had 14 points and six rebounds for Florida. Hamilton added 5 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals.

Florida gets a five-day break before facing national champion Maryland on Saturday. The Gators have played five games in 12 days.

"It is frustrating to me the way the schedule worked out because we barely have time to practice," Donovan said. "That is what these young guys need, practice time between games to work on things they are not doing well."

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