In the first game since Christian Drejer left, UF defeats Ole Miss 81-66.
By Associated Press
Published February 22, 2004
OXFORD, Miss. - If the past week has been filled with negativity and adversity, as Florida coach Billy Donovan said, the Gators sure didn't show it Saturday night.
Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh each scored 24 as the Gators defeated Mississippi 81-66.
Florida (15-8, 6-6 SEC) ended a two-game skid and moved into third place in the East.
The team's troubles came to a head last week when Christian Drejer suddenly quit to sign a contract with a professional team in Spain.
"It's one game and it's great to win on the road against a team that plays really good defense and plays well at home. But it's more than that," Donovan said. "In the past few days we've learned a valuable lesson about life. We've learned something about ourselves and how we need to deal with adversity."
David Lee had 10 points, five assists and a game-high nine rebounds.
Justin Reed had 20 points for Ole Miss (12-11, 4-8), who slipped to fourth in the West.
Aaron Harper had 19 points and Justin Johnson 10 as the Rebels saw a five-game home winning streak end.
The Gators finished the first with a 7-0 run to take a 29-23 lead. Roberson, who dislocated a finger in practice on Thursday, put Florida ahead to stay on a 3-point shot during the run.
"A lot of people counted us out," Roberson said, "but we've pulled together."
The Gators built a 44-32 lead in the opening seven minutes of the second.
Ole Miss never got closer than 10 again as the Gators shot 14-for-20 from the floor to open the second.
The Gators continued to pull away, building their biggest lead, 71-53, on a free throw by Walsh with 4:53 left.
Florida shot 21-for-28 from the line.
"They got into their rhythm offensively in the second half," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. "Walsh and Roberson are two of the best scorers in the SEC and the nation. They made big shots. You've got to give Florida a lot of credit. They had not played well lately, but they are a good basketball team."
Florida was 26-of-48 from the field and 8-of-18 from 3-point range, including three each by Walsh and Roberson.
Ole Miss was 25-of-59 from the field and 9-of-18 from the line.
Florida has won five of six in the series but it was just their first victory in Oxford since 2000.