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College basketball

UF uses all it has to win

Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh and David Lee lead late-game rally as Florida beats Georgia 63-55.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published March 4, 2004

GAINESVILLE - Florida coach Billy Donovan has described his team as a squad with three experienced players. And that's about it.

Wednesday night, those three - Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh and David Lee - were literally about it.

And that was good enough.

The trio combined for 49 points, including 14 of the Gators' final 17 in a late-game rally, to lead Florida to a 63-55 win over Georgia in front of 11,011 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

The win avenged a loss to the Bulldogs two weeks ago in which the fans stormed the court after the game. The Gators (18-8, 9-6 SEC) retained at least a tie for second place in the SEC East. Florida concludes the regular season Sunday at Kentucky.

"I'm very, very proud of these kids just because they found a way to win tonight when they could have very, very easily packed it in," Donovan said. "We got down late in this game, and Matt, David and Roberson showed great leadership and they showed tremendous heart and character. They did a great job."

The Gators led by as many as 12 with less than three minutes remaining in the first half, but a 6-0 run pulled the Bulldogs within 34-28 at halftime. The second half was a series of runs, but it was Georgia that made the most significant one midway through the period.

Led by Rashad Wright (nine points), Damien Wilkins (12) and Chris Daniels (team-high 17), the Bulldogs went on a 10-1 run to take a 47-46 lead, its first of the game. They eventually led 52-49 with 4:41 remaining. When Walsh hit a 3-pointer at 3:33 to tie it at 52, it ended Florida's eight-minute scoring drought.

"We weren't worried because we've done such a good job of closing out games lately," said Walsh, who scored a game-high 22, 10 in the final four minutes. "These last three games we've proven how tough we are as a team."

Trailing 57-54, Georgia's next two possessions ended with a missed shot and a turnover, which allowed the Gators to take a 59-54 lead with 36 seconds left. The Bulldogs hit 1 of 3 free throws in the final 21 seconds, which helped Florida seal the win. It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Gators since their loss to Georgia on Feb.17.

"Offensively, we just didn't convert shots," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "It was one of those games that puts both teams on their heels. It was basically a one possession game. We couldn't make the shots and they obviously could."

Florida shot 56 percent from the field in the first, 50 percent for the game and 46 percent from 3-point range. The Bulldogs shot 19 percent from 3-point range and 42 percent from the field.

In pregame warmups, Gators players wore gray T-shirts with the slogan "We All We Got," a statement first spoken by Roberson when Christian Drejer quit to play professionally in Europe after the Georgia loss. The players said it symbolizes the way they've regrouped and come together.

"We're a team right now that grew from that (four straight losses and the loss of Drejer), and we're a team that's playing well late in games," Roberson said. "We've got a lot of confidence down the stretch. It's a good time to win four in a row going into the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament."

[Last modified March 4, 2004, 01:15:01]


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