UF moves on to NIT quarters


Published: Friday, March 20, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.

For a night, basketball was fun again. There were pretty back-door cuts, floor-burn dives and bodies that crashed toward the offensive glass with each missed shot.

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Florida's Walter Hodge makes a pass around Miami defender Adrian Thomas as coach Billy Donovan looks on during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Friday.

AARON DAYE/Staff photographer

Facts

Up next

What: NIT quarterfinals
Who: Florida vs. Penn State
When: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center
TV: ESPN

Florida advanced in the National Invitation Tournament with a 74-60 win over state-rival Miami before 6,525 at the O'Connell Center.

"In a lot ways, they're just out there playing now," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I'm not saying there is not any pressure because I know in those guys, there is pressure. I think any time you step on the court there is always a level that you want to perform and you want the team to do well. But I think for them, just their attitude and disposition the last week or so has been good."

The Gators will next play No. 2 seed Penn State (24-11) on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. in the O'Connell Center in the NIT quarterfinals. If Florida wins, it will advance to the NIT semifinals in New York City for the second straight season.

It was a night for milestones. Florida (25-10) surpassed its win total from last season and tied the school record for wins at home with 18. Also, Florida sophomore point guard Nick Calathes broke the season record for assists he set as a freshman last season (221). With seven assists Friday night, Calathes now has 224 assists on the season.

Calathes led three Florida players in double-figures with 21 points. Alex Tyus added 13 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth-career double-double.

Florida overwhelmed the Hurricanes early, jumping to a 20-2 lead. The Gators held Miami scoreless for the first 5:29, jumping ahead 12-0 on a Chandler Parsons jumper.

"Florida was on their game today," Miami coach Frank Haith said. "I don't know if it was travel or what, but they were a lot quicker than us. Early in the game they were blowing right by us."

Miami flew into Gainesville from Providence on Thursday afternoon following its 78-66 NIT opening-win against the Friars.

"It was hard, because it's something we don't normally do," Haith said.

Miami missed its first seven attempts from the floor, all from 3-point range, while

Florida made five of its first six shots from the field.

"If we start out like that, I like our chances," said Florida junior forward Dan Werner, who added 12 points and six rebounds. "You just have to credit that to good defense, hitting shots and finding each other."

From there, Florida maintained its lead, going ahead 48-32 at halftime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Calathes. The Gators shot a season-best 63 percent from the floor in the first half with 15 assists.

Defensively, Florida held Miami senior guard Jack McClinton to 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Dwayne Collins led the Hurricanes (19-13) with 17 points.

"That was our main goal, to contain (McClinton)," Calathes said.

Florida also did an excellent job on the glass, out-rebounding Miami 37-25. Tyus had six of his rebounds in the final 6:20.

"Our whole frontcourt played well today, really strong," Tyus said. "I'm really happy that we got it done."

There were some anxious moments late, when a Collins dunk cut Florida's lead to 71-59 with 4:47 remaining. But Florida senior guard Walter Hodge came up with a big defensive play, drawing a charge from McClinton on Miami's next possession.

Freshman guard Erving Walker then followed with a big 3-pointer, putting Florida back ahead 74-59 with 3:31 left.

"Our guys kept battling," Donovan said. "We came out with the victory in the end."

FREE THROWS: Florida 2009 incoming freshman guard Kenny Boynton sat behind the UF bench and was in the locker room with the team after the game. "I can't wait," Boynton said, when asked how much he is looking forward to next year. "I'm looking to bring some defensive intensity." ... Haith downplayed rumors that he's a candidate for the vacant job at Alabama. "That's what they are, rumors," Haith said. "It's nice to be wanted, but I feel like I'm needed at Miami."

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