Drejer cleans up
Danish sophomore stars with 19 points, 11 assists in Gators' rout
Posted: Tuesday November 25, 2003 9:39PM; Updated: Wednesday November 26, 2003 1:24AM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's new group of freshmen looked fabulous in the season opener. Sophomore Christian Drejer was even better.
Drejer, the Danish star who struggled with injuries last season, had career highs of 19 points and 11 assists Tuesday night to lift No. 8 Florida to a 112-73 victory over Montana State.
"A guy like Christian, sometimes his passing becomes very, very contagious and all the guys start playing that way," coach Billy Donovan said.
Freshman Ryan Appleby certainly got into the flow. The guard from Washington got a start in place of suspended Anthony Roberson and finished with six points and six assists.
Classmate Chris Richard, a 6-foot-8 forward from Lakeland, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Abukar, a 6-10 forward from California, had nine points and four rebounds.
"It was good getting out there," Appleby said, "especially with the big game we've got coming up."
Fresh off this easy win, the Gators get their first real challenge of the season Friday, when they play No. 4 Arizona in Springfield, Mass.
They'll have plenty to build on, including the game-high, 20-point performance from David Lee, an 18-point night from Matt Walsh and, of course, Drejer's stellar play.
Working a lot at point guard because of Roberson's absence, the 6-9 swingman looked like Magic Johnson at times, scooping the ball on the dribble, making no-look passes and sometimes just dribbling around, finding an open space and shooting.
He finished 8-for-9 from the floor, and his 11 assists were two more than he had against Kentucky last March.
He looked healthy for the first time since he arrived at Florida. Last year, nagging ankle injuries ravaged his season. He never found his shooting touch, and never really got comfortable in the flow of Florida's offense.
"The main thing is, I don't have to worry about my body," Drejer said.
Drejer's fancy ballhandling defined a night in which the Gators simply toyed with their overmatched opponents from the Big Sky Conference. At times, it seemed like the only thing missing was a version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" playing from the PA system. Florida finished with 31 assists. Midway through the second half, Florida held a 30-5 rebounding advantage. The final advantage was 47-17.
"Our guys were just worried about SportsCenter," Montana State coach Mick Durham quipped. "It's going to be prime time in Montana when it comes on. They'll watch to see which of our guys gets dunked on."
The first points of Appleby's career came on a 3-pointer about five minutes into the game. Abukar entered a bit later and also started his career with a 3. Midway through the second half, Appleby hit Richard on a sweet pass in the lane for an easy dunk -- possibly a sign of good things to come.
"The three guys did a pretty good job for us," Donovan said.
Montana State, which opened the season with wins over Quinnipiac and Howard, tried to run with the Gators. That didn't work, although the experience will surely help the Bobcats down the road.
"We got a feeling of the atmosphere, got to see what it's all about," Durham said. "It was great for us. We won't think too much about this, we'll just get ready for Saturday" and a game against Idaho.
Florida, meanwhile, has a tougher challenge. It's Arizona, which defeated Northern Arizona 107-73 in its season opener Monday.
"They scored 107 the other night, we scored 112," Donovan said. "God knows what the score will be like Friday night."