Road rout


Florida's Joakim Noah blocks a shot by South Carolina's Brandon Wallace (33) during the second half of Saturday's game at the Colonial Center in Columbia, S.C.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 14, 2007 at 1:47 a.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. - As Florida gathered inside its locker room following an 84-50 rout of South Carolina Saturday afternoon at the Colonial Center, one player was missing.
Senior Lee Humphrey remained on the court for a television interview. After he finished, Humphrey sprinted off the court, down a hallway and burst into the Gators' locker room. The moment he did, Humphrey's teammates erupted into cheers and applause.
It was a fitting greeting. Humphrey torched the Gamecocks for a career-high 27 points Saturday, helping second-ranked Florida post its' biggest SEC road win in 40 years.
Humphrey knocked down his first five 3-point attempts and finished with a career-high seven 3s.
The Colonial Center crowd of 13,828 gasped as each of Humphrey's long-range shots swished through the net during his impressive first-half explosion. Humphrey's fifth 3-pointer came with 12:12 left in the first half and put Florida ahead 22-6. The Gamecocks never recovered.
"It was just a day where I felt good," Humphrey said. "As a shooter you have days when you feel good shooting the ball and you want to get as many shots up as you can. That's what happened to me today."
Florida, playing on an opponents floor for just the second time this season, improved to 16-2 and 3-0 in the SEC. The 34-point win was Florida's biggest SEC road win since a 96-61 decision at Ole Miss on Jan. 29, 1966.
"It was important for our team to come out focused early," Al Horford said. "We set the pace early in the game."
The win, coupled with No. 1 North Carolina's 94-88 loss at Virginia Tech Saturday, will likely boost Florida back into the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time since Nov. 20.
South Carolina, which had several key players slowed by injury, fell to 10-5 and 0-2 in the SEC. Senior Tre' Kelley scored 24 points, but just four after intermission.
Horford complemented Humphrey's outside game by scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as Florida erased the memory of a regular-season sweep by the Gamecocks last season.
"They brought it to us (last year)," Horford said. "This year we didn't want that to happen."
Humphrey was a major reason. Humphrey hit 3-pointers on three of Florida's first four possessions as Florida raced to a 12-0 lead. He scored 12 of Florida's first 15 points of the game.
"Humpty set the tone," said Joakim Noah, who contributed 13 points and eight rebounds. "Humpty hit his shots. He can really shoot the ball."
For the game, Humphrey was 10-of-12 from the field and 7-of-8 from 3-point territory. He surpassed his previous career high of 25 points set last year against Arkansas at the SEC Tournament. His previous high of six 3-pointers came against George Mason at last year's Final Four.
Humphrey surpassed his career scoring high with a steal and lay-in at the three-minute mark. It gave Florida an 80-42 lead. During the next media timeout, Noah streaked off Florida's bench, yelled a few encouraging words in Humphrey's face, and smacked him on the back side.
"One thing that helped us is how well Lee Humphrey shot the basketball," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "After that we had an inside-outside presence. Lee really made some shots and got it going."
Humphrey shredded South Carolina's zone defense, a ploy by Gamecocks coach Dave Odom to slow down Florida's post players. After Humphrey ripped the zone apart, the Gamecocks were forced to play man-to-man.
"I'm of the opinion that (in giving up the outside shot) you've still got to make them," Odom said. "Obviously, Lee Humphrey did."
Coincidently, Horford told the media earlier this week his creation of a new phrase. He calls it "a Lee Humphrey shot." Horford gave the exact definition of "a Lee Humphrey shot" after Saturday's win.
"It's just a 3-point shot - no matter what time in the clock it is," Horford said.
Horford also gave an added compliment to Humphrey each time he launched one Saturday.
"If you watch film on the game, I didn't go rebound," Horford said. "I just ran back on defense."
The Gamecocks, though, weren't completely doomed by Humphrey's sharp shooting. Kelley rallied the Gamecocks by scoring 20 first-half points, including nine over the final 5:41 of the first half to cut Florida's deficit to 41-33 at the break.
"Tre' Kelley brought us back single-handedly in the first half," Odom said.
But the Gators finally wore down Kelley in the second half by rotating defenders. Florida went on second-half runs of 14-2, 8-0, 11-0 and 14-0 to seal the victory.
Florida, the nation's leader in field-goal percentage, shot 64.3 percent for the game while holding the Gamecocks to 38.3-percent shooting.
Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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