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Florida keys to victory

By Compiled by JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2000

1) STICK TO THE STYLE: The Gators love to win games with their up-tempo style, running teams ragged with their 10-player rotation and trapping full-court press. It doesn't always pay dividends in the first half, but in the final eight minutes fatigue makes shooting an open jumper a tough task. Michigan State is deeper than most teams UF has played in the tournament, but that won't change the Gators' strategy.

2) BE CHOOSY: Though the emergence of Udonis Haslem and Donnell Harvey has allowed Florida to rely less this season on three-point baskets, it still knows how to use one of the game's best weapons. The key is to take good shots, which the Gators did not do in a 7-for-28 effort against North Carolina's zone. Michigan State's man-to-man defense should allow Florida to look for threes in transition.

3) START FAST: Michigan State has struggled in the first half of its past four games, lapsing into long scoring droughts. That can play into Florida's hands if it can build a big lead -- as it did against North Carolina -- and force the Spartans to expend large amounts of energy mounting a comeback. That would leave the Gators with fresher legs in the last five minutes.

4) DO THE WAVE: Florida uses 10 players, bringing talented reserves off the bench in waves. Michigan State uses three key reserves. The difference between the benches is productivity. The Gators' bench has scored 175 points in the tournament, the Spartans' 43. Florida's second wave can do more than just contribute to the fatigue factor. It can score.

5) BE FEARLESS: Florida has reached the championship game in spite of its youth by refusing to cave in to tournament pressures. The Gators realize the stakes, but cannot let the daunting task of winning it all affect their willingness to take shots and make plays. If they play scared, they will lose.

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