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College basketball

Arena christened by ugly Gator win

UF 59, UCF 39: Florida overcomes its worst output of the season.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published December 5, 2003

JACKSONVILLE - There were no cheerleaders, no pep band, no Albert and Alberta mascots and very little that resembled the usual atmosphere surrounding a game.

But in the history books, Florida will go down as the first basketball team to win at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

Behind 19 points and seven rebounds from sophomore forward Matt Walsh, No. 2 Florida defeated Central Florida 59-39 Thursday night in front of 12,940 at the one-week-old arena.

It was the fewest points this season for the Gators (4-0) and their fewest since the 68-46 loss to Michigan State in last season's NCAA Tournament second-round game.

"That (59 points) was a little surprising, but the biggest thing was our shot selection," said guard Anthony Roberson, who scored 12 on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. "Our shot selection wasn't good at all. They didn't force us into anything, it's just something that we have to go back and look at the film and see what we did wrong. But we got the (win), and that's what counts."

It took the Gators nearly four minutes to score their first basket, and the sluggish opening caused coach Billy Donovan to alter his plans. Junior forward David Lee was listed as doubtful, having severely sprained his ankle in Tuesday night's game against FAMU. But three minutes into the game, Lee came in and scored seven of the Gators' first 14. He played 22 minutes.

"I woke up this morning thinking I was not going to play in this game," said Lee, who added the adrenaline had worn off and his ankle was in pain after the game. "UCF is a good team and we just did not want to come out here flat. We've had a lack of energy the past couple of ballgames, and I just wanted to come in and provide some energy for my team."

A 12-2 run gave the Gators a 14-2 lead, but UCF pulled within 22-16 with just under seven minutes left in the half. Florida outscored UCF 13-4 in the final five minutes to take a 35-20 halftime lead.

The Golden Knights (2-2) outrebounded Florida 22-17 in the first half but were stone cold with their shooting. UCF went 0-for-11 from 3-point range in the half and shot 29 percent from the field.

By game's end, the Golden Knights were 5-of-27 from beyond the arc and 17-of-66 from the field. They never got to the free-throw line and scored their fewest points since 1984, when UCF was a Division II school. Senior forward Josh Bodden was the only double-figure scorer for UCF (14 points, eight rebounds).

"You have to give Florida credit," UCF coach Kirk Speraw said. "It's hard to attack, especially when they go into that zone. ... I credit Florida's defense, but even our wide-open shots didn't fall."

Florida opened the second half with a 10-0 run. UCF did mount a slight challenge midway through the game with an 11-3 run, but it only pulled it to within 48-31, and it never threatened.

The Gators shot 48 percent from the field (they took nearly 13 minutes to score 20 in the second half) and were 5-of-17 from 3-point range. Florida outscored UCF 18-2 in points off turnovers.

"We had the defense down pretty good; we held them to 19 points in the second half," Walsh said. "I think it was more a matter of we didn't really play as unselfishly as we have been. We have been getting such good shots, I think some guys really forced shots. Guys started getting frustrated. This is just a one-time thing. I think this will be fixed by the next game."

[Last modified December 5, 2003, 01:34:13]


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