Word is out on Walsh


Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 12:52 a.m.
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In the three SEC games, Matt Walsh has averaged just 5.7 points.

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Florida will take on South Carolina in Columbia at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

In Florida's three SEC wins this season, it has become clear that even when opponents can shut down one player, it typically opens it up for another player to pick up the scoring.
During nonconference play, Matt Walsh was Florida's most potent scorer, averaging 15.9 points a game. In the three SEC games, Walsh has averaged just 5.7 points. If Walsh was a secret early in the season, he's not anymore. But as teams focus on trying to shut down the talented freshman, it's opening it up for other players, particularly in Florida's frontcourt.
"If you look at Matt's stats in the SEC, he's not getting as many shots up because of the way he played before the SEC," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Matt still gives us a guy who can spread the defense, and it creates scoring opportunities for other guys because Matt is a guy you have to guard."
Donovan said he wouldn't call Walsh's recent play "a slump" because he's pleased with the shots Walsh is taking and is happy with the other things Walsh has done, particularly his passing and his defense.
"Against Georgia, we had him on Jarvis Hayes, so he was more focused on that than scoring," Donovan said. "He wasn't as offensive-minded."
Walsh said he knew games were going to get tougher once SEC play began, but said he felt more than prepared thanks to Florida's difficult nonconference schedule.
"People said it was going to be different when we get to the SEC," Walsh said. "But we played Kansas and we played at Maryland. It's been difficult, but it hasn't been anything we weren't ready for."
With Florida facing a South Carolina team with a great deal of size in the frontcourt, the Gamecocks may be looking to try to shut down Matt Bonner or David Lee and Walsh may be asked to resume his scoring.
"I'm not worried about it," Walsh said. "I can focus on doing other things. I know the scoring will come and I'll start hitting shots."
  • While Bonner has been Florida's top player since SEC play began, Lee may be running a close second.
    After the Georgia win, coach Jim Harrick said Lee "may have been the difference" in the game. Against Tennessee on Wednesday night, Lee lit up the Vols for 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
    As Florida's schedule has gotten tougher, so has Lee.
    "I was a little disappointed before Christmas break with how I was playing, not from a statistical standpoint, but I had a few games where I didn't feel I had been playing as hard as I should've been," Lee said. "I went home for a few days and came back with a new attitude to play harder in each practice and try to bring a rebounding and inside presence each game."
    Lee will be faced with another tough test when he faces off against South Carolina center Tony Kitchings, who is at least 30 pounds heavier than Lee.
    "He's just a little bit bigger than me," Lee said, laughing. "It's good experience going against guys like that and I think I've gotten better going against guys when I have a strength and height disadvantage."
  • SCOUTING SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks have lost their last two games to Kentucky and Auburn. Forward Rolando Howell had 15 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday's loss to the Tigers.
    South Carolina is struggling, at 7-6 overall, but is 7-1 at home this season.
    Dylan B. Tomlinson covers UF men's basketball for The Sun. You can reach him by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at tomlind@gvillesun.com

    Inside the numbers

    A closer look at the standings in the Southeastern Conference through Thursday:
    East
    TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
    Florida 3-0 14-2
    Kentucky 3-0 12-3
    Georgia 1-1 9-4
    Tennessee 1-2 8-4
    Vanderbilt 1-2 8-6
    South Carolina 1-2 7-6

    West
    TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
    Auburn 3-0 14-2
    Alabama 2-1 12-2
    LSU 1-1 12-2
    Mississippi 0-2 9-4
    Arkansas 0-2 5-8
    Miss. State 0-3 10-4

    Saturday's games

    Florida at South Carolina; Alabama at Auburn; Georgia at Arkansas; Notre Dame at Kentucky; Ole Miss at LSU; Vanderbilt at Tennessee.
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