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College basketball

Unsightly win alarms coach

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 24, 2002


GAINESVILLE -- Don't mention the words "cupcake," "easy opponent" or "sure win" to Florida coach Billy Donovan any more this season.

There's no such thing, as the Gators found out Monday afternoon.

Coming off its emotional double-overtime win over Miami on Saturday, No. 12 Florida struggled, then put together a late rally to defeat Charleston Southern 74-62 in front of 8,824 at the O'Connell Center.

The performance caused Donovan to break a clipboard into pieces during a late first-half timeout (he threw it down), then earned a postgame tongue-lashing from the coach.

"I was just upset with them," Donovan said about the clipboard. " ... There were a bunch of things out there right now that led me to believe that we were primed to have a letdown. I really talked to those guys, yesterday in practice, today at shootaround, pregame; (it) was just (about) mentally and physically being prepared to handle what was in front of them. And obviously I didn't do a good enough job because they didn't."

Charleston Southern (4-4) led 32-30 at halftime after the Gators went scoreless for more than four minutes twice.

Florida's frontcourt had arguably its worst game, particularly in the first 20 minutes. The Buccaneers hit 11 shots in the lane in the first half and scored 14 off Florida's 13 turnovers. Florida committed five turnovers in the second half.

"Our frontcourt got absolutely annihilated, destroyed," Donovan said.

Florida opened the second half much like it started the game: flat. A 9-3 run gave Charleston Southern a 41-33 lead with 16:23 remaining.

But the Gators responded with a run, led by freshman Anthony Roberson, who hit three 3-pointers within a nearly three-minute span midway through the half to pull the Gators within 49-48. Roberson scored five in the first half but came off the bench and scored nine in the first nine minutes of the second, finishing with 16 points.

"I just put it on my shoulders that I was going to knock down some shots and not let my team go down," said Roberson, who scored 16. "That was the attitude I came in with, refuse to lose."

With the score tied at 54, freshman Matt Walsh (14 points, three assists) scored an 8-foot jumper with 7:20 remaining that started a 10-2 run and gave the Gators a lead they never relinquished.

"I'm appreciative of our team because I thought that they came into Gainesville and competed," Buccaneers coach Jim Platt said. "I thought their superiority shone through in the last few minutes."

Florida (9-2) takes two days off before returning Thursday to prepare for a game Saturday against Bethune-Cookman.

"I hope these guys understand that they are not that good," Donovan said. "They're not. As a team or as individuals, they are not that good. And they all have goals and aspirations of playing in the NBA one day? They need to turn the TV on at 5:30 Christmas Day. Because you can't be out to lunch in the NBA because you're playing on Christmas Day. ... If they come focused and prepared and they play together and they play unselfishly, then we have a chance to be special. If we don't play that way, we're average."

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