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Walk-on Gators get to shine

FLORIDA 113, SAVANNAH ST. 62: Unbeaten UF empties its bench in a laugher as it gets a break from its SEC schedule.

By IAN FISHER
Published January 19, 2006


GAINESVILLE - All three of Florida's walkons played at least 10 minutes, two scored career highs and one even dunked Wednesday night.

Coach Billy Donovan was able to play reserves most of the game with a comfortable lead. Walkons Brett Swanson, Garrett Tyler and Jack Berry received loud applause every time they scored, especially when Tyler finished off UF's scoring with a dunk with 40 seconds to play.

It was an emphatic end for the Gators (17-0, 3-0 SEC), who blew out Savannah State 113-62 at the O'Connell Center.

"When he gets to be 45 or 50, it will probably elevate to over Kentucky, overtime, put them up by one," Donovan joked. "The story will certainly escalate, I'm sure."

Tyler took his opportunity to notch a career-high seven points against the Tigers (1-18), who last season became the second winless Division I team in the past half-century. Berry's five were also a career high.

"Just looking over at the bench, that's the best part, seeing all your teammates jumping up and down and the Rowdy Reptiles going crazy," Tyler said. "It's a lot of fun."

Seeing the walkons get playing time gave Donovan something to feel good about.

"For me personally, it's great. They don't get a chance to take their warmups off that very often," Donovan said. "When we were up by the amount of points we were up, I really wanted to try to reward those kids, to give them that opportunity to play significant minutes."

The Gators bench scored 58, with Walter Hodge scoring a career-high 18. Six players dunked 12 times, including six by Joakim Noah, who led the Gators with 21 points on 10-of-10 shooting.

Florida tallied 12 blocks, third most in school history, led by forwards Noah (four) and Al Horford (six).

"Against a team like this, you're going to get 10 or 15 blocks the way we play, but we know we're not going to do that against an SEC team, so it's just something that happens, I guess," Horford said.

Adrian Moss said Horford and Noah make up the best blocking duo in the country.

"I think when teams bring it in there, they're kind of looking over their shoulders, and (either Horford or Noah) is going to get it," Moss said.

The game provided a nice break in the SEC season for the Gators, who face Tennessee on the road Saturday.

"In games like this, it's all about having fun," Noah said.