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Gator goal: keep game from turning on foul play


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2000

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Florida's strategy in today's first-round game against Butler is to make the Bulldogs' tongues wag. Fatigue is the Gators' best friend.

"If we want to play our style of play, we cannot foul," swingman Mike Miller said. "The more we foul, the more they rest, the less they have to substitute. The key to our game is making teams go up and down the court without stopping."

Florida learned that lesson the hard way in a 78-70 loss to Auburn in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. The Gators committed 32 fouls and sent the Tigers to the free-throw line 44 times.

"Our style is ineffective when we foul," coach Billy Donovan said. "Our style of play is based on fatigue, wearing people down and getting teams to a point in the last 10 or 12 minutes where they are not able to shoot the ball well from the perimeter."

Butler, with its methodical offense, makes teams foul out of frustration. The Bulldogs attempt an average of 22 free throws, and they hit 66 percent.

"We have a sign in our locker room that says, to paraphrase: "You don't stop wrestling the Gator when you're tired. You stop when he's tired,' " Butler coach Barry Collier said. "That's what we'll face, and we have an experienced group to do that. We're real anxious to get into this."

THE HOST TEAM: Butler is the host school for the Final Four in Indianapolis, but that doesn't mean the Bulldogs will be going regardless. "I think they delegated the tickets to people at higher levels," senior Mike Marshall said. "But we kind of look at it as the Butler Invitational, and hopefully, we'll be there."

NO HARD FEELINGS: Collier, a product of Palmetto High in Miami, was approved by Florida's admissions board in the mid-1970s but not by then-Gators coach John Lotz.

"They expressed some interest and made some visits down to our school, but I think I was insurance for some kids they were recruiting ahead of me," said Collier, who played at a Miami junior college before becoming an MVP at Butler. "Bottom line, I wasn't good enough to play at Florida."

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