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Freshmen stars have lost scoring punch


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2003

GAINESVILLE -- After displaying gaudy numbers at the beginning of the basketball season, star freshmen Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh have dropped in offensive production.

Roberson and Walsh are still second and third on the Gators in scoring with 13.2 and 13.1 per game, respectively, but lately they haven't had a breakout performance.

Roberson started his sixth game of the season Monday night in place of a struggling Brett Nelson (6.7 points per game). It didn't appear to help either shooting guard.

Nelson finished with six points and Roberson had two on 1-for-9 shooting in the win over New Orleans.

"People may say, 'Why did you start Anthony Roberson? He was 1-for-10 against Tennessee,' " coach Billy Donovan said. "For me, it wasn't like a knee-jerk decision or something that was based on one game. It was trying to do what was best for our team, one, and two, trying to also get Brett Nelson going too."

Although Walsh's offensive numbers have gone down (scoring three against Tennessee and four against Mississippi), the forward has improved on limiting turnovers, committing three total in his past four games.

He had 12 points against New Orleans.

"I just tried to tone it down a little bit and not go for the home run play as much and just stay within the offense," Walsh said.

BONNER A FINALIST: Senior forward Matt Bonner is among 20 finalists for the prestigious Naismith Award, presented annually to the nation's premier men's college basketball player.

FIRST-YEAR SUCCESS: Although the women's basketball team has not lived up to preseason expectations under coach Carolyn Peck (8-15, 0-10 SEC), two other first-year coaches at Florida have flourished.

Gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn, a former Nebraska assistant, has done more than just lead the Gators to a 13-2 record and a 3-0 mark in the SEC.

Friday against No. 20 Iowa State and No. 12 Denver, the No. 6 Gators won their fifth consecutive meet title with a school-record 197.475 points, sweeping the five individual titles.

It was the first time since 1998 Florida scored above 197. The Gators also set school records on the balance beam and floor exercise.

Faehn also is responsible for turning UF into the nation's best on the uneven bars. She hired assistant coach Randy Lane, who is in charge of a bars lineup that includes Erin Pendleton, who has a perfect 10.0 in a meet Jan. 31.

Meanwhile, men's track and field coach Mike Holloway isn't as concerned about team wins and losses as he is about sending as many Gators as possible to the NCAA Championships.

At the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Holloway had two automatic qualifiers for the nationals and four provisional qualifiers.

Florida's 4x400 relay team set a school record and was an automatic qualifier with a time of 3 minutes, 6.68 seconds, breaking the 1989 mark of 3:06.96. The team includes Ahmad Jasmine, Kyle Farmer, Sekou Clarke and Rickey Harris.

Farmer's time of 20.76 seconds in the 200-meter dash was the third best in school history behind John Capel's :20.26 and Dennis Mitchell's :20.73, and also made him an automatic qualifier.

"We talked about building a championship team and everybody went out and laid it on the line," Holloway said.

A NEW CHALLENGE: The baseball team will play an exhibition game at 6:30 p.m. March 26 against the Spanish National Team at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville. The game will not count toward the NCAA 56-game maximum, and it will be free to the public.

"This is a great opportunity for our ballclub to showcase their talents against a national team," coach Pat McMahon said.

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