This victory won't fade anytime soon
Published: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 1:14 a.m.
Anthony Roberson just kept going.
By the time the ball went in, he was well past midcourt. And he kept going. If not for the stands full of celebrating Florida fans, he might have backed up all the way to Micanopy.
Finally, when his exaggerated fadeaway could go no further, he waited for the rush of teammates.
"It was a little rainbow and I didn't know if it was going to fall," he said. "Then I saw everyone running at me. I thought they was going to hurt me."
They simply wanted a piece of the magic.
"Peep" Roberson supplied it Saturday, making one of those shots that always missed a year ago unless it was taken by the UF opponent. It was his 10th three-point attempt of the game, the seventh that went in. The others merely set up what was a stunning end to a great college basketball game.
I know this is only the second SEC game of the season and the 15th overall for this year's Florida team. Still, Roberson's 25-foot, game-winning shot has to rank in the top five in Gator basketball history.
1. It had been nine years - when Stacey Poole beat Vanderbilt with a jumper - since Florida had won a home game on a buzzer-beater. A lot of the 12,422 in attendance walked out of the O'Connell Center saying it was one of the best games they had ever seen. That's because, of course, they hadn't seen Florida win a game like that in so long.
2. It was Georgia, a team that had won two in a row in Gainesville and looked like it might make it a three-peat when the Bulldogs took a 10-point lead midway through the second half.
3. Did I mention it was Georgia? Forgetting the rivalry between the two teams for a moment, it was an Eastern Division game that could be important for seeding purposes down the road, like, say, the SEC Tournament.
4. You had to be there, or at least see it on television to understand how difficult the shot was. Roberson was being guarded by 6-foot-7 Jarvis Hayes, who must wear Flubber on his sneakers. The guy can jump like nobody in the SEC.
Hayes, who quite simply is the conference's best player, had already shot Georgia back into the game with three straight threes after Florida had taken a nine-point lead. He made another to give the Bulldogs the lead and was poised to win it with 19.1 seconds remaining and the game tied.
But Hayes was called for an offensive foul that brought Georgia coach Jim Harrick off the bench so violently he almost went Mike Davis on us. His assistants and Georgia guard Rashad Wright restrained Harrick, allowing the final seconds to unfold without technical free throws.
The final play was designed to go to Matt Bonner, who rediscovered his shooting touch just in time after Florida fell into its deep hole. The defense was there and Justin Hamilton dished the ball to Roberson, who took the ball to the top of the key.
He gave Hayes a pump-fake. Hayes didn't bite, but the move kept him from being able to elevate.
"I almost knocked it out of his hand when he pump-faked," Hayes said. "He got it off. How tall is he, 5-11?"
Actually, 6-foot-1, and he needed every inch to fade away and let it go. He didn't know if it was going to get there. He only knew he wanted the last shot.
It has always been that way for Roberson, whether on the playgrounds or the gyms of Saginaw, Mich.
"It's rough where I'm from," he said. "It's an attitude I grew up with in my neighborhood. I grew up with the confidence of playing in that neighborhood. You play with your shirt off, you play from sunup to sundown. You take the last shot."
From where we sit, you had to think it wouldn't go. A fadeaway from NBA range? Let's get ready for overtime.
"There was no way that shot wasn't going to go in," UF center David Lee said. "I had the perfect angle under the basket. It was pure. It didn't even touch the rim."
The crowd erupted in a frenzy, then had to quiet down while officials made sure there was no time on the clock after the make. There wasn't and the celebration started again.
For the game, Roberson finished with 23 points. Meanwhile, the senior who starts at his position - Brett Nelson - went 0-for-Saturday from the field.
Which of course begs the question why Roberson isn't starting in place of a guy who is in the worst shooting slump of his career.
"That tells you a lot about Peep," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Earlier this season, I wanted to put him in the starting lineup to get Brett going. He said, 'You can't do that. Brett's a senior. It's better for our team. I don't want to start.' But the games we've had, at Maryland and Miami, Mississippi State and Georgia, he's out there on the floor at the end."
Roberson likes his role as a sparkplug, one he filled to near perfection against Georgia. When the Gators trailed by 10 with 11:54 to go, it was Roberson who complemented Bonner's impressive run of 12 points in less than five minutes with nine points of his own.
"I always feel like your time will come," Roberson said.
That time came in an electric atmosphere Saturday, with the game on the line and 1.3 seconds remaining when the ball left his hand. When it slid through the net, Florida's basketball team had a new hero.
And he just kept going.
You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 374-5053. You can see Pat on "Sports Showdown" with Larry Vettel on WGFL-CBS 4 Fridays at 11 p.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m.
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