Gators now 3-0 in SEC

Published: Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 2:06 a.m.
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Florida's Corey Brewer finds his path blocked by Vanderbilt's Dawid Przybyszewski (13) and Shan Foster in the first half.

The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - How is this for surprises?
Two weeks ago, Florida had just muddled through an 8-3 non-conference start.
Losses to in-state rivals Florida State and Miami were bad. The loss of then-leading scorer Matt Walsh for four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain was worse.
Fans began to question Billy Donovan's coaching ability. The Southeastern Conference schedule beckoned, and Donovan was in poor-mouthing mode, saying his team would need to overachieve just to have a chance to win in every conference game it played.
So far, Florida has responded well to its underdog status.
The Gators improved to 3-0 in the SEC with an 82-65 win over Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym. They snapped the Commodores' 11-game home winning streak and provided a sliver of confidence for a young team that has won two straight on the road.
"I'm hoping for our young kids, every game, every practice, that they are figuring out the things they need to do and how hard it is to play in the league," Donovan said. "It's a nice win, but we've only played three. The sun will come up tomorrow. There's 13 more."
Florida did it with the same formula it used against Auburn - scoring from Anthony Roberson, rebounding from David Lee and Al Horford, and a defense that took away the 3-point line.
Roberson scored 30 points. Lee added 11 points and a career-best 17 rebounds. Horford just missed his second-career double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds.
"Sometimes, in rebounding, the ball bounces your way," said Lee, whose previous career-high was 14 last season at South Carolina. "I just tried to attack the basket and stay aggressive."
Overall, Florida out-rebounded Vanderbilt 45-25, with Horford and Lee alone out-rebounding Vandy by three.
"I think we realize that this how hard we have to come out and play all of the time," Horford said. "We were more prepared, more focused and had more energy."
Defensively, Florida was able to contain Vanderbilt's two scoring threats by befuddling the Commodores with a variety of man and extended zone defenses.
Leading Vandy scorer Mario Moore was held to 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting and 7-foot-2 center Dawid Przybyszewski finished with 10 before fouling out with 6:08 to go in the second half.
Freshman Shan Foster led Vanderbilt (11-6, 2-2 SEC) with 18 points.
Vanderbilt, the SEC's leading 3-point shooting team coming into Saturday, finished 12 of 34 from the 3-point line.
"They are a hard team to guard," Donovan said. "I think the circumstances of the game, Jason Holwerda and Przybyszewski getting into foul trouble, dictated some things."
Florida held Vanderbilt without a field goal in the final 6:18 on the first half, turning a 24-24 tie into a 43-27 halftime lead. Roberson capped the 15-2 run with a 3-pointer at the buzzer off a feed from Joakim Noah.
"This the one of the toughest places to win in the road in the SEC, because of the crowd and because the arena is so unique," Lee said. "I made it a point to the young guys in the second half not to let up."
Florida didn't, extending the lead to 24 until the Commodores tried to mount a late rally.
Vanderbilt cut Florida's lead to 12 on a 3-pointer by freshman Shan Foster and had a chance to move closer following a turnover by freshman Taurean Green. But Foster missed a 3-point attempt with 2:19 left, and Roberson grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Roberson, the SEC's leading free-throw shooter at 89.2 percent, made both to extend the lead back to 14, and scored four more straight points on two free throws and a layup.
The first half was a half of runs. Florida jumped ahead early, extending its lead to 22-9 on a layin by Chris Richard with 12:05 remaining.
Vandy answered, tying the score at 24 with a 15-2 run that featured two 3-pointers from Foster.
At 3-0, Florida is tied atop the SEC East with Kentucky and has a three-game, two-week homestand coming up with Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.
"I'm sure people will find more reasons to write us off," Lee said. "We just have to come out and keep playing hard."

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