Gators find some challenges in rout

Coach Billy Donovan praises his team's maturity and balanced scoring as it moves to 3-0.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published November 15, 2007

GAINESVILLE - When your starting lineup consists of five new players, two who were in high school last season, every game is a learning experience, according to Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Even a 105-51 victory over North Carolina Central on Wednesday night at the O'Connell Center.

"This was a great learning experience game," Donovan said. "Tonight was a game where they showed a little maturity, which was a good thing to see, the way they approached this game."

Although the Gators 3-0 scored more than 100, only four players were in double figures, balanced scoring that pleased Donovan. Freshman Chandler Parsons scored a career- and game-high 22 and also had eight rebounds and seven assists.

"I think we weren't as nervous as we were last week being that it was our first game of the season," Parsons said.

On the heels of Sunday's game in which Donovan criticized, then challenged sophomore Marreese Speights to raise his defensive game, the St. Petersburg native responded.

Speights had a season-high nine rebounds and was 9-of-10 from the field with a career-high 19 points in 20 minutes.

"The minutes he played, he made an impact outside of scoring, which was good to see," Donovan said.

With a 57-25 halftime lead, Donovan challenged the team to forget trying to turn the game into a highlight reel and focus on four keys: holding NCCU to 45 points, gaining 30 assists, keeping the field-goal percentage below 40 percent and committing fewer than 14 turnovers. It hit two of those four: Central shot 37.5 percent from the field and the Gators had 11 turnovers. They had 29 assists.

"It's not about the score or the personnel in the locker room, it's about what are we doing to reach our potential as a team," Donovan said about the game's benefit. "The most talented team that we're playing up to this point and time is Rutgers. That's going to be a heck of a challenge for us on Saturday."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com,

Florida 105