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Gators preparing for a quick turnaround

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2000


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Florida's overtime victory against Butler on Friday was physically and emotionally draining, but the Gators say they will be recharged for today's game against Illinois.

They have no choice.

"I'm not really concerned," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "This is the time of year you have to play with everything you have. That game, like any type of emotional experience you go through with somebody, brought us closer together as a family. That is very positive.

"We're playing to go to the Sweet 16; that should be incentive enough."

Sophomore Mike Miller, whose buzzer-beater lifted UF to a 69-68 victory, has avoided watching replays of the shot or getting caught up in the aftermath.

"The goal for every team is to live another day," Miller said. "We definitely lived to see another day, but when you go to that next day you have to put the last day behind you."

NOSE JOB: Illinois guard Cory Bradford, who broke his nose a week ago in the Big Ten tournament final, opts not to wear a plastic mask for protection. He was wearing a mask in practice on Tuesday when a basketball struck the side of his face, jamming the mask into his nose.

"It knocked him out of practice for a while," Illinois coach Lon Kruger said. "I think he figured he suffered more pain because of the mask than if he hadn't been wearing it."

Though Bradford, who averages a team-high 14.9 points, scored just five on 2-for-9 shooting in a first-round victory against Penn on Friday, he said his nose injury was not a factor.

OT EXPERTS: Florida is 3-0 in overtime games in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators also beat UConn 69-60 in the Sweet 16 in 1994 and Weber State 82-74 in the second round last season.

BACK-TO-BACK SUCCESS: Florida's victory on Friday gave it 47 the past two seasons, marking the Gators' most successful two-year stretch. UF won 46 games in back-to-back seasons twice, in 1994-95 and 1987-88.

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