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Young Gators end up-and-down night on top

11/30/2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Florida's youngsters were looking for some
sympathy after losing to Stanford in the Preseason NIT. Instead,
coach Billy Donovan gave the seventh-ranked Gators a dose of tough
love.

''I was not happy with their attitude in practice,'' Donovan
said. ''I think they came in wanting me to feel sorry for them. I
made them watch the whole Stanford game on Thanksgiving.''

It must have made an impression because the Gators responded
Friday night, beating No. 2 Kansas 83-73 in the consolation game of
the tournament.

It was not easy.

The Gators (4-1) constructed a first-half lead that stretched to
16 points, watched it shrink to six in the first minutes of the
second half, then built it back up to 19 only to have it cut again
to two before they put the game away.

It was an up-and-down performance, something Donovan said he believes he
must expect from his young team.

''You're dealing with young guys,'' he said. ''These guys don't
know how to respond when they lose and have to play a quality
opponent. We got better.''

So did Kansas (2-2). The Jayhawks played in a trance during
their semifinal defeat against North Carolina and still seemed out of it
in the first half against Florida, missing 10 of 20 free throws and
all six 3-point shots. They managed just eight baskets.

But Kansas came out firing in the second half. Consecutive
3-pointers by Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Miles cut a 12-point lead to
six. Florida fired right back with three 3-pointers by freshman
Anthony Roberson, highlighting a 17-4 burst that put the Gators
back in control.

Kansas wasn't done, though. The Jayhawks, struggling for baskets
all night long, suddenly got hot, going on a 23-6 run that erased
all but two points of the lead.

Matt Walsh, another Florida freshman, halted that burst with a
3-pointer that seemed to settle the Gators.

Walsh said he wasn't aware of the scope of Kansas' comeback.

''I could tell they were making a run,'' he said. ''I just got a
good look. I wasn't thinking about their run or anything like
that.''

Florida then steadily reconstructed its lead and secured the
victory.

Walsh and Matt Bonner had 22 points each, Justin Hamilton scored
14 and Roberson, who was 1-for-13 in the semifinal against
Stanford, finished with nine points. Keith Langford led Kansas with
17, while Nick Collison and Wayne Simien scored 16 each.

Kansas coach Roy Williams was pleased with the way the Jayhawks
came back.

''I liked the way our team competed,'' he said. ''We just needed
to make a couple of plays and make a couple of shots.

''They had a lot to do with how poorly we played.''

The defeat completed a washout visit to Madison Square Garden
for the Jayhawks, who lost consecutive games for the first time
since Feb. 12-17, 2001.