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Powerful inside game leads Gators to victory

With the 3-pointers not falling, Florida scores 58 in the paint to overwhelm Tulane 81-65.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 3, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- This time around, it wasn't all about the fastbreak for Florida. Instead, it was about being a force inside.

Taking on Tulane on Sunday in a tuneup for Wednesday's game against Michigan State, the No.6 Gators scored 58 points in the paint en route to an 81-65 victory over the Green Wave in front of 8,244 at the O'Connell Center.

Florida's Matt Bonner had a game-high 16 points. The junior forward scored eight of Florida's first 10 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to open the game.

"I was just getting some good looks and some open shots," said Bonner, who also had seven rebounds. "And it was mainly just my teammates finding me."

Coach Billy Donovan has tried his best to make sure center Udonis Haslem isn't the Gators' sole focus, but based on Sunday, that might be hard to do. Haslem picked up two fouls in 23 seconds two minutes into the game and sat out the rest of the half. With Haslem out and the Gators shooting 20 percent on 3-pointers, Tulane made its best run.

Trailing 22-13, the Green Wave went on an 8-2 run to make it 24-21 with 6:57 left. But the Gators ended the half with a 10-4 run to take a 36-27 lead.

"In the first half, (Florida) was a pretty different team without Haslem," said Tulane forward Brandon Brown, who had eight points and seven rebounds. "We were able to run all of our stuff, and I felt we were better than nine points down at the half. But with him in, he made some good quick baskets, and they were able to get that full-court pressure in to help them."

Haslem's dunk with 16:28 left started his 11 consecutive points. He outscored Tulane 11-3 during the run to give Florida a 53-36 lead and finished with 13 points and four rebounds.

"Haslem is such a presence inside," Tulane coach Shawn Finney said. "We got him in foul trouble in the first half, and unfortunately, we were not able to take advantage of that. He's a load down low, and he's definitely one of the best players in the country down low in the post."

Tulane struggled with Florida's pressure, committing 21 turnovers that led to 28 points. Meanwhile, Florida was 3-for-21 from 3-point range, with Brett Nelson 0-for-7. It shot 52 percent from the field.

Donovan said he wasn't overly concerned with Florida's 3-point shooting.

"It was a game, in my opinion, where they did a good job against us at the 3-point line. But I think anybody could see it was wide open in the post," Donovan said. "I know we're a very good shooting team. This was a game where we needed to adjust and the ball should have been dumped inside. We didn't do a good job recognizing what was available to us."

The Green Wave was 0-for-10 on 3-pointers in the first half, but went 5-for-9 in the final 20 minutes.

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