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College basketball

Gators earn trip to tourney's final four

Lee Humphrey's 3-pointers help Florida pull away from Albany 83-64 and advance to play at Madison Square Garden next week.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published November 11, 2005

GAINESVILLE - "Let it go."

Those were the final words of advice Florida coach Billy Donovan had for junior guard Lee Humphrey as the season was about to begin.

Humphrey spent the offseason working on his confidence and perfecting the best weapon in his arsenal: his 3-point shot.

Now Donovan has given him the green light to let it fly whenever he feels he can make it.

Thursday night, he was feeling it pretty good.

Humphrey tied a career high with 15 points, hitting 5-for-7 from 3-point range, helping the Gators to an 83-64 win over Albany in the 2K Sports Challenge for Coaches vs. Cancer.

Florida (2-0) makes its first trip to Madison Square Garden since 2002, an appearance in the tournament's final four, Nov. 17-18. Florida plays the winner of tonight's Wake Forest-George Mason game. Wake advanced with a 78-64 win over Mississippi Valley State in its opener Thursday. Eric Williams scored 22 for the No. 18 Demon Deacons.

Humphrey's 3-point shooting was even more impressive because the tournament has experimental rules with a longer 3-point distance and wider lane.

"I'll take that any week," said Humphrey who was 9-for-14 in the tournament's two games. "It's been a great week for me shooting the ball, I've been very hot. I think one of the reasons why is the unselfishness of our team, they are willing to make the extra pass to give me great looks."

Two other Gators had career nights. Sophomore forward Joakim Noah had 17 points and seven rebounds, and forward Corey Brewer had 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, earning region MVP honors.

"I've never been to New York City and I can't wait to go," Brewer said. "I'm really excited. Everybody always talks about Madison Square Garden and now I get to go play in it."

For the second straight night, the second half proved to be decisive and Brewer helped spark it with an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Gators a 45-39 halftime lead.

After taking a big first-half lead (on a 7-0 run), Florida allowed Albany to close the gap. The Great Danes took their first lead at 33-32 on a Jamar Wilson 3-pointer with 5:37 left in the half and led again at the 3:58 mark.

"I thought the game was so close in the first half because of Wilson's ability to drive the lane," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "He got a little tired in the second half and we did a better job defending him."

Wilson was 6-of-7 from the field and had 19 points in the first half, but was held to one shot in the second half. The Great Danes hit 13-of-19 from 3-point range Wednesday night, but the Gators held them to 9-of-22 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Florida opened the second half with a 10-1 run, then never trailed again. The Gators shot 58 percent from the field, 47.6 from 3-point range. Center Al Horford took just four shots, but had seven assists.

"Our basketball team playing in New York, it will be the best thing for them," Donovan said. "For our growth and development, to play the caliber of teams we'll play, this is what we need. ... New York will be positive regardless of what happens to our team."

[Last modified November 11, 2005, 01:19:18]


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