Florida slogs through win over UCF
Posted: Thursday December 4, 2003 10:48PM; Updated: Thursday December 4, 2003 10:48PM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Once the first few minutes had been played, there was little doubt about who would win. Yet somehow, this game was far from comfortable for No. 2 Florida.
Matt Walsh scored 19 points Thursday night to lead Florida to a grinding 59-39 victory over Central Florida, an opponent that gave the Gators much more trouble than they might have expected.
Florida (4-0) won the first basketball game played at Jacksonville's gleaming new Veterans Memorial Arena -- host to an NCAA regional in 2006 -- although this one looked more like it belonged in a dusty old gym, circa 1950.
"It's a new arena with new rims, so they might have been a little tight," Gators forward David Lee said. "It definitely wasn't a shooter's atmosphere."
It was more than that, though. In fact, UCF (2-2) gets most of the credit for the grinding nature of this game. The Golden Knights slowed the pace to a crawl, were meticulously patient working the ball and, most notably, dived after every loose ball and got most of them.
If only the Knights could shoot. They went 17-for-66 (28 percent) from the field, 0-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half and shot 0 percent from the line -- tying an NCAA record by going a clean 0-for-0.
Josh Bodden led the Knights with 14 points. Roberto Morentin had six points and nine rebounds. Despite the loss, UCF wasn't too demoralized. Coach Kirk Speraw figures this will serve his team well for the upcoming Atlantic Sun Conference schedule.
"A game like this can help if they don't demoralize you," Speraw said. "We came out of this with some positives about how to compete against this kind of team."
While the Gators have been held under 60 points a handful of times since Billy Donovan became coach in 1996, this marked the first time they held an opponent under 40 since Dec. 23, 2000, a 79-33 win over American University.
Donovan said he was pleased with the defense, which was not good Tuesday night in a 102-78 win over Florida A&M.
The offense was another story.
"As a group, we made some bad reads, some bad decisions," Donovan said. "We didn't do a good job with the next pass. In a lot of cases, one more pass would have made a big difference."
Florida led 35-20 at halftime, and Donovan ripped into his players in the locker room, accusing them of taking the "laissez faire" route, waiting for things to come to them.
They responded with the first 10 points of the second half, four from Lee (seven points, five rebounds), who played despite tweaking his ankle Tuesday, an injury Donovan thought would keep him out.
After falling behind by 25, Central Florida made four 3-pointers over the next three minutes to get it to 48-31.
The final 12 minutes were a hoot one second, a bore the next. They included stretches of 3:32 and 3:58 during which neither team scored. The refs did their part, too, calling only 10 fouls on the Gators and never giving the Knights even a whiff of the free throw line.
"That's tough when you play 40 minutes and don't get to the line," Speraw said. "But they're so long. They get up, get in your way and affect things without getting the body shots in."
Besides Walsh, Anthony Roberson was the only Gator in double figures. He had 12 points, including a sweet stop-and-spin move in the lane for a basket midway through the second half -- the nicest play of the game on a night when nice plays were hard to find.
"It would be funny if we were as good as we could be right now," Roberson said. "I think we've got a long road ahead of us. We're going to put the broken pieces together."