Colas shines when Gators need him
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 2:50 a.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Bonell Colas doesn't play basketball well hidden behind a protective face mask. That much he admits.
But the mask he once wore this season came off for the second straight game Saturday night at the Carolina Center. And before a crowd of 17,038 and in front of a hungry South Carolina team, Colas showed what he believes is his true face.
From the far reaches of Florida's bench, Colas scored a career-high 16 points and pulled six rebounds in a career-high 24 minutes in the Gators' win over the Gamecocks. The Gators may have been doomed without him.
"We just went with him and got great results," coach Billy Donovan said. "He gave us a great, great night. Without him, we have a difficult time winning."
That Florida grinded out a hard-fought win made Saturday even more bittersweet for Colas. A season in which his body and playing time have suffered suddenly turned in a different direction for Colas.
"It felt good to be a positive presence for my team," Colas said. "Especially in SEC play."
Colas had become a forgotten man before Saturday. He had played a combined 18 minutes in Florida's three SEC games this season, scoring just two points.
"There's been a lot of discouraging things happening to me this season," Colas said.
Only 12 days ago, Colas opened league play with a clear, protective face mask after he broke his nose during practice. He was cleared to play without it after the Georgia game and gladly did so.
"I played terrible against Mississippi State with that thing," Colas said. "I think it was just a mental thing with that (mask). The doctors said I could go without it, so I did."
That was against Tennessee on Wednesday. But Colas scored two points in just eight minutes. Saturday, Colas got involved early, scoring eight first-half points on easy lay-ins as the Gamecocks ignored him at times.
Colas scored two quick hoops after checking in early in the second half, including a basket-hanging dunk with 14:07 left that evoked memories of former Gators center Udonis Haslem as Colas pulled his knees high above his waist.
Donovan said with starting center David Lee (eight points) in foul trouble, he had no choice but to use Colas for much of the second half. That included the final 2:03 after Lee fouled out.
"Not everyone gets to play every night, but if you're playing well, you get to stay out there," Donovan said. "Without him, we'd have a very, very difficult time winning because he and Matt Bonner were the only great players we had in our front court from a scoring and rebounding standpoint."
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