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Updated: Monday, February 17, 2003 10:46 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(7) Florida 77, New Orleans 48
NEW ORLEANS PRIVATEERS
New Orleans Privateers
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FLORIDA GATORS
Florida Gators
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GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- No. 7 Florida schedules New Orleans as a favor to former assistant coach Monte Towe. But the Gators showed no mercy on the court.

Matt Bonner scored 22 of his 24 points in the first half, when Florida built a 23-point lead en route to a 77-48 rout of the Privateers.

The Gators (21-4) have won 37 straight home games against non-conference teams and matched an overall school record for consecutive home wins with 18 since a loss to Kentucky in January 2002.

"I think our guys came out very hard. I was pleased with the intensity level," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We played unselfishly and Matt Bonner was just phenomenal in the first half."

Towe, who served as an assistant at Florida from 1980-89, is in his second year as New Orleans coach. Last season, he brought the Privateers here and they left with a 76-60 loss. This one wasn't as close.

After Hector Romero opened the game with a dunk for New Orleans (13-11), the Gators scored the next 13 points, 11 by Bonner on a layup, a 3-pointer, two free throws, a short jumper and a hook shot.

Romero ended the drought with a free throw, but Florida scored the next seven points on a 3-pointer by Christian Drejer, a jumper by Bonell Colas and a layup by David Lee. The Gators had a 20-3 lead 7:08 into the game.

Florida ended the half with nine straight points as Bonner hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Matt Walsh also connected from beyond the arc, making it 42-19 at halftime. Bonner by himself has three more points than the Privateers, who shot 29 percent (7-of-24) in the first half.

"In the first half, I would love to take all the credit, but I was just hitting open shots," said Bonner, who was 4-of-5 from 3-point range. "I think my teammates did a great job finding me in transition and setting the screens. Coach Donovan set up some plays for me and I got some touches and I capitalized on it."

Walsh made a 65-foot desperation heave just after the halftime buzzer. The basket didn't count, but he opened the second half with a 3-pointer and a jumper to increase the lead to 47-21. Walsh finished with 12 points.

Florida built its biggest lead, 64-27, on a 3-pointer by freshman Rashid Al-Kaleem with 9 1/2 minutes remaining.

Romero had 29 points and 19 rebounds against the Gators last year. This time, he had 15 points on 3-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds.

"Our frontcourt did a good job on Romero, considering what he did to us last year," Donovan said.

"They came out every time I had the ball in the beginning and double-teamed me," the 6-7 Romero said.

New Orleans shot an abysmal 27 percent for the game and slipped to 0-10 on the road. The Privateers had field goal droughts of seven minutes, nine minutes and eight minutes.

"I thought their defense was outstanding," Towe said. "They have an outstanding basketball team, a big team that was hard for us to match up with. Our kids battled and I was proud of the effort."

Privateers guard Johnell Smith, who scored 86 points in a game for Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, had 14 on 6-of-7 shooting.

After Florida raced to a 17-point lead, New Orleans went on a 9-2 run and pulled within 22-12 on a layup by Nerijus Lisauskas with 9:54 left in the half. But that was as close as the Privateers got.


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