Cakewalk at O-Dome


Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

After the carnage was complete Wednesday night, Florida sophomore forward Joakim Noah was asked what his team got out of its 113-62 win against overmatched Savannah State.

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Florida junior reserve forward Chris Richard blocks the shot of Savannah State's Alfonce McKinney on Wednesday at the O'Connell Center. Richard finished with 5 points and two blocks as the No. 2 Gators won, 113-62.Center. Brewer scored 11 points and pulled down three rebounds as the No. 2 Gators won, 113-62.

TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun

"Competition," Noah said. "A lot of confidence. I think we need that, to get another W going into the rest of the SEC season."

With Noah scoring 21 points on a perfect 10-for-10 night from the floor, the second-ranked Gators (17-0) maintained their undefeated start with the easy win against the Tigers.

Savannah State (1-18), ranked 333rd out of 334 in the Ratings Percentage Index, received a $50,000 appearance fee for the bludgeoning. Florida out-rebounded the Tigers by a near two-to-one margin (53-27), scored 58 points in the paint and got 58 points from its bench.

None of the five starters played more than 19 minutes, which should leave Florida well rested for a Saturday showdown at improved Tennessee. Florida extended the best start and longest winning streak in school history. The Gators finished undefeated in non-conference play for the first time in coach Billy Donovan's 10 seasons.

"It was good to see us scoring enough with the starters out of there and having our bench guys be able to stay in the flow of the game," Donovan said. "When you have a week off, sometimes it can help you and sometimes it can hurt you. But for a mid-week game against a team out of our conference, I think we came out with the right focus."

Here's the kind of night it was for the Tigers. Already down 16-2, Savannah State guard Joseph Flegler stole a high dribble from Noah at midcourt and appeared headed for a breakaway layup. But Noah didn't give up on the play, using his long strides to catch up to Flegler and his long reach to swat the layup attempt on the way up.

It was one of 12 Florida blocks, two shy of the school record of 14 in a game set against Eastern Illinois in November 2002.

The game gave Donovan an opportunity to play his freshman guards extended minutes. Walter Hodge finished with a career-high 18 points but had five first-half turnovers. David Huertas also reached double figures with 15 points, but had a few shots blocked.

Hodge played the first extensive minutes of his career at point guard and had a strong shooting day, going 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

"Walter did a nice job," Donovan said. "There were times when he tried to force some things. David, I thought, may have tried to drive the baseline a little bit too much in the first half. But it was good for them to be able to get the minutes that they did in game situations."

By late in the first half, the game deteriorated into a glorified scrimmage. Walk-on guard Brett Swanson checked in with four minutes remaining in the first half and sank a 3-pointer before halftime. Adrian Moss chucked up a three-point attempt. Garrett Tyler sank a three in the second half and finished off the game with a thunderous dunk.

Tyler, whose vertical leap tied Corey Brewer for the team high at 42 inches this preseason, took a pretty feed from fellow walk-on Jack Berry and showed off the spring that made him the runner-up in a Pinellas County dunk contest.

"I've had a few opportunities," said Tyler, who finished with a career-best 7 points. "I have to thank Jack for that one. He passed up a wide-open shot."

Walk-ons Tyler, Swanson and Berry combined to score 15 points in a combined 35 minutes of playing time.

"I really wanted to reward those guys and give them significant minutes," Donovan said. "In practice, they are as valuable as our starters. Sometimes in life we talk about wins and losses, but if those kids have a valuable experience that they can take away from here for the rest of their lives, that can be as important."

You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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