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Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 10:41 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(7) Florida 77, Tennessee 64
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Tennessee Volunteers
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FLORIDA GATORS
Florida Gators
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GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- On a night when Florida unveiled a heralded freshman, a senior stole the show.

Matt Bonner scored 25 points as seventh-ranked Florida extended its winning streak to 10 games with a 77-64 victory over Southeastern Conference foe Tennessee.

David Lee added 14 points and Brett Nelson 13 for the Gators, who led by double digits for most of the second half.

"Matt Bonner is just an unbelievable player," Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "He can shoot the ball at that size from the outside. He's just hard to guard."

Florida made 10-of-19 shots from 3-point range, including five-of-seven by the 6-10 Bonner. The Gators have 10 or more 3-pointers in five of their last seven games.

The game marked the debut of Danish freshman Christian Drejer, who had yet to play due to a series of injuries and ailments.

The 6-8 swingman has drawn the attention of NBA scouts, but played only sparingly and did not collect his first collegiate points until he sank a pair of free throws with 80 seconds. The crowd of 12,495, which included members of Drejer's family who traveled all the way from Denmark, cheered wildly.

"I think today was very tough for Christian just from the standpoint that it was his first game back with only a couple of practices under his belt," Gators coach Billy Donovan said. "This was his first college game. There were probably a lot of emotions going through his head."

Just getting on the court was an achievement for Drejer.

"Of course it felt great," Drejer said. "For me it's important to go out there and be part of the team. It has been some really long weeks and it is just a great feeling to be on the floor again."

Florida (14-2, 3-0 SEC East) is off to the second-best start in school history, behind only last season's 14-1 effort. It is just the third double-digit winning streak in Florida's history, with the others coming last season and in 1951-52.

The Gators also extended their home winning streak to 13 games.

Ron Slay had 17 points for Tennessee (8-4, 1-2), which pulled out its first SEC victory with a 66-64 triumph at Mississippi on Saturday but has lost 11 of its last 12 games in Gainesville.

"The thing about this league is that when you get beat, you just have to move on," Peterson said. "Our guys are disappointed that they lost, but we've got to move on and get ready for Vanderbilt on Saturday."

Jon Higgins added 14 points and freshman C.J. Watson 12 for the Volunteers, who trailed 36-23 at halftime.

The Volunteers were able to cut the lead to nine points in the second half before the Gators pulled away. Two free throws by Lee gave Florida a 61-44 lead with eight minutes left.

Florida has won five straight and 20 of the last 24 meetings with Tennessee.


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