FSU to present a true road test

The talented Seminoles are the Gators' final pre-SEC schedule opponent.

Sam Houston State's Chris Jordan reacts to being called for the foul on Florida guard Anthony Roberson during the first half Wednesday at the O' Connell Center. Roberson scored a season-high 22 points to lead the Gators to an 83-51 win.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 12:48 a.m.



  • WHO: Florida Gators (8-2) vs. Florida State Seminoles (7-6).
  • WHEN: Today, 1 p.m.
  • WHERE: Donald L. Tucker Center (12,100), Tallahassee.
  • ON THE AIR: WYPN (Cox Channel 11), 103.7-FM.

  • In the not-so-long-ago days, this one would have been decided by late November, the night before Florida football players carried Ron Zook off the field on their shoulders.
    That's before Leonard Hamilton became the new sheriff at Florida State.
    Intent on having the rivalry basketball game stand on its own, Hamilton has resisted the tradition of scheduling the night before football in favor of a January game. Hence, Florida will play at Florida State this afternoon in its last non-conference test before springboarding into its Southeastern Conference schedule.
    Florida, which may be without the services of guard Matt Walsh (sprained ankle), enters the game riding a modest three-game winning streak and could use some added momentum for its SEC opener at the O'Connell Center next Saturday against Arkansas.
    "We'll find out a lot about ourselves," Florida coach Billy Donovan said of the FSU game. "When I look at their team, I see top-15 level talent. This is probably the most talented team we've seen this year in terms of depth of talent. Louisville had some outstanding players, but were a little banged up when they came here."
    As for the timing of the game, "I don't have any problem with it," Donovan said. "Certainly, I respect Leonard's opinion. There are two sides to everything. I think next year, when we sit down and schedule, we'll probably move it back to the night before the football game at our place and respect what Leonard wants to do at his place."
    Florida State (7-6) has been among the most puzzling teams in college basketball this season. The Seminoles are coming off a lackluster 67-50 loss Thursday night to LSU at the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans. At times, they've looked awful, and at times they've looked promising. Low points included losses to Florida International and Texas A&M Corpus Christi at home. High points included a win at Minnesota and an overtime loss at Maryland.
    An explanation could be the loss of forward Tim Pickett, who as a senior last season stabilized the lineup with his defense and perimeter shooting ability. Hamilton, in his third season as FSU coach, has used eight different starters this season in trying to mix his two talented recruiting classes in with the veterans on the team.
    A player to watch will be freshman starting point guard Jason Rich, a Parade All-American from Dr. Phillips in Orlando who was recruited heavily by Florida.
    "I loved him as a player and have great respect for him," Donovan said.
    The game also will serve as Florida's first true road test of the season. The season opener against Jacksonville was classified as a road game, but there were clearly more Gator fans than Jacksonville fans that night at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
    "This will be our first test in a hostile environment, which is good with the conference season coming up," Donovan said. "I'll be interested to see our freshmen, how they are going to perform and how they respond to things."
    You can reach Kevin Brockway by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5054.

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