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Gators overwhelm weary Friars

Associated Press
Published November 28, 2004

MIAMI - For the first time, Billy Donovan wanted his alma mater to lose. And Matt Walsh made that happen.

Walsh scored 15 of his 21 during the second half, helping No.23 Florida beat Providence 84-66 Saturday and earning MVP honors for the third consecutive time at the Orange Bowl Classic.

"I don't know if it's the arena or the atmosphere or what," said Walsh, who led Florida past Miami two seasons ago and West Virginia last season at the event. "Every time I come here, I've had great experiences. But we've also had three wins, and I think that's the most important thing."

Walsh was 7-of-11 from the field, 5-of-8 on 3-pointers, and Anthony Roberson had 17 points and seven assists.

Ryan Gomes scored 17 for Providence, playing its third game in four days. It lost 79-67 to No.1 Wake Forest in Wednesday's Preseason NIT semifinals in New York and beat Michigan 72-63 in Friday's consolation game.

"It's been a good learning experience," Gomes said. "I don't think there's any games on the schedule that'll be like this. We competed with the No.1 team in the country three days ago, and competing against two good ranked teams ... makes us better as a team."

It was the first time Donovan coached against Providence, the school he led to the 1987 Final Four as a player. Donovan averaged 20.6 points that season for Rick Pitino's club and still ranks among Providence's top 15 in career scoring.

The Friars could have used some of his spark down the stretch Saturday. They managed only two field goals during the final 8:55.

"I follow those guys every single game," Donovan said. "I still look for Providence scores. I want to see them do well. I'm very thankful for the people at Providence who touched my life, who took an active interest in me personally basketball-wise. It was a great place."

Until the final minutes, Providence stayed with a team that hadn't played since Tuesday. Dwight Brewington's two free throws with 8:25 left brought it within 62-55, but Providence didn't score again for more than three minutes while Florida pulled away with an 8-0 run.

David Lee made two free throws. Then Walsh made consecutive 3-pointers for a 70-55 lead with 6:02 left.

"The gas tank ran empty the last six, seven minutes," Friars coach Tim Welsh said. "We were hanging with them, but we couldn't get over that hump. Against a good team, if you don't keep scoring and get a couple of stops, they can pull away quick. And they did."

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