Entire cast is peaking at just the right time

Published: Thursday, February 17, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 17, 2005 at 3:09 a.m.
A homemade sign in the student section Wednesday night read "Welcome to the Peep Show" and included a swinging cardboard door that revealed (fortunately) a picture of Florida's point guard.
But the sign was wrong. It isn't just the Peep Show. Not now.
Which is why Florida's basketball team is playing some of the best basketball we've seen around here since the 2000 national runner-up season.
It's the Peep and Matt Show with quite a supporting cast.
Anthony "Peep" Roberson and Matt Walsh are back to being a two-headed monster and just in time. When Walsh went out with a sprained ankle, the issue wasn't as much about how the Gators would perform with him out as much as it was how they would play when he came back at less than 100 percent.
But Walsh is feeling two healthy ankles underneath him now and the balance is back for the Florida scoring attack.
"It feels good for me to be playing good again," Walsh said.
And because he is, Roberson isn't feeling the need to score every single point for the Gators. He's playing more under control, forcing fewer shots but still taking enough to be the object of a defense's attention.
When Walsh first came back, it was a different story. Roberson still felt the heavy weight of being the man. Walsh was as impatient as a kid on Christmas Eve except this kid was limping down the stairs on a bad wheel.
The result was that Roberson pressed because he needed to and Walsh pressed because he thought he needed to.
"Matt tried to do too much," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "His patience is so much better the last three or four games."
The last four games, including Wednesday night's blowout win over Mississippi, have seen a Florida team that has played like Gator fans hoped it would all season because Walsh and Roberson have been exactly what you want them to be.
Poised. Patient. Potent.
In those four games - three wins and a three-point loss at Kentucky - Roberson and Walsh have combined for 152 points. Talk about balance, Roberson has 77 and Walsh 75.
But it has been more than the obvious, which was obvious to Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes.
"It's tough," he said, "when they're playing the way they are right now. Anthony looks a whole lot more in control, a lot more poised. And Matt, maybe (his injury) was the best thing that could have happened to their team. It seems like he is playing with a lot more energy."
Those first four games back were a struggle, the energy that had been pent up by inactivity spilling onto the court in a frenetic bundle of mistakes. He had more turnovers (8) than he had field goals (7) during that stretch.
But during the last four games, he has 18 assists and only six turnovers. On Wednesday night, he had one of those dream lines in the box scores - 5-for-6 from the field, five rebounds, 16 points, seven assists.
"I'm not making one excuse," he said of his problematic return to the team. "I wasn't playing well. But it wasn't all there."
Now that it is, it's all there for Roberson as well. He chipped in four assists to go with his 20 points. And these numbers are brought to you by a coach who called off the dogs, sitting Roberson and Walsh for the final 7:05 of the game.
"Having Matt back has made a big difference," Roberson said. "Having him out there playing the way he is feels good."
And when the two stars are clicking, Florida is able to do what it did Wednesday night - force its will on the opposition. Scoring 90 points on a team that doesn't want to run is an impressive feat.
Limiting that same team to 53 points is even better, even if it's called Ole Miss for a reason. And again, the Walsh-Roberson Show isn't limited to the offensive end, two shooters not known for defense playing plenty.
In the space of these four games, Florida has beaten a pair of teams by more than 30 points because the Gators can complement their offense with defense and rebounding.
"We're playing better than we ever have since I've been here," Walsh said. "We want to feel like we did out there."
A feeling they'd like to keep going into the madness that lies ahead.
You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.

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