2001 NCAA Men's Tourney

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NCAA Basketball Scoreboard: Recap
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Florida 69, Western Kentucky 56
Posted: Friday March 16, 2001 08:01 PM
Western Kentucky
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NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Udonis Haslem picked up where he left off in the last year's NCAA Tournament.

Haslem scored 24 points, including seven in a late 10-2 run, as third-seeded Florida took over down the stretch and posted a 69-57 victory over Sun Belt Conference champion Western Kentucky in an opening-round South Region game at the Superdome.

Matched up against 7-1 Chris Marcus -- the Sun Belt Player of the Year -- the 6-8 Haslem had a three-point play, a tip-in and two free throws during the game's key burst as the Gators (24-6) advanced to a second-round meeting with Temple.

"Early on I tried to make things happen," said Haslem. "Coming into the game, I knew it was going to be a track (meet), just going up and down the floor." Last April, Haslem had the second-best shooting day in the history of the NCAA championship game, going 10-of-12 from the field and scoring 27 points in Florida's 89-76 loss to Michigan State.

Haslem's 83 percent performance was bettered only by the 95.5 percent (21-of-22) showing by UCLA's Bill Walton against Memphis in the 1973 title game.

On Friday, Haslem was 9-of-15 from the field and made sure the Gators did not have to sweat out another first-round contest. In the opening round of the 2000 tournament, Florida needed an overtime buzzer-beater by Mike Miller to get by Butler.

"(Haslem) is one of the greatest players I've every coached," said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "He is totally 100 percent about winning and has an unbelievable basketball mind. He lifts his teammates up and has a great feel for the low post." Brett Nelson scored 19 points for Florida and drilled a pair of 3-pointers during a 12-0 second-half run as the Gators turned a six-point deficit into a 44-36 lead. But the 14th-seeded Hilltoppers (24-7), making their first NCAA Tournament showing in six years, did not waver.

"We started to execute and jump out on that lead," Nelson said. "Then we were able to hold it." Western Kentucky scored six consecutive points, including a baseline turnaround by Marcus, to pull within 44-42 with a little over nine minutes remaining.

After a free throw by Florida's Teddy Dupay, Haslem converted a layup on the break and was fouled. The ensuing free throw gave the Gators a 48-42 advantage with just over eight minutes left.

Two free throws by Nelson were answered by Filip Videnov, who converted a layup. But Haslem followed with his tip-in and added two from the line just 10 seconds later for a 54-44 bulge with 6:23 remaining.

"First of all, I just want to commend the Florida players and coaches," said Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton. "They played really good to beat us today. Their experience in the postseason was a major difference." Marcus led four Hilltoppers in double figures with 14 points. He also grabbed 16 rebounds, the highest total in the Tournament through the first's 24 games.

Haslem had 11 rebounds for the Gators, who held a 40-33 edge on the boards while shooting 49 percent (24-of-49).

"Every game in the tournament is going to be tough, and we knew this game was going to be that way," Nelson added. "We just took care of business." Western Kentucky connected on just 34 percent (19-of-56), including 3-of-17 from 3-point range.

"It seemed like whenever I got the ball, they trapped," Marcus said. "I tried to hit the opposite guard but they (Florida) swatted the ball away." This was the first meeting between the teams, although Florida improved to 3-4 against the Sun Belt.


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