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December 6, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Saturday, December 7th, 2002

by Brian Strong

A bad week for Florida almost became disastrous, as driven rival Florida State rode their home crowd to a near upset in Tallahassee last night. Having lost to West Virginia in the final minute earlier this week, the Gators watched Seminole Tim Pickett’s last second shot bounce of the rim to give Florida (No. 7) a different result this time – a 58-57 victory. Florida moved to 5-2 on the season.

So, although they escaped with the victory, the problem for head coach Billy Donovan is that the Gators have yet to find any measure of consistency in this fairly young season. Granted the Gators were probably carrying heavy legs after the challenge of four road games in the last nine days, but they are far more talented than either West Virginia or Florida State. They showed us that in New York City against Kansas.

For all the Gators’ athleticism and scoring power, they can’t seem to get everyone going at once. Last night, Matt Bonner was the go-to guy scoring 18 points after some encouragement from Donovan at the half. But as good as freshman Matt Walsh and senior Brett Nelson have shown us they can be, each could only muster five points last night. Plain and simple: You expect more than 58 points from Florida’s roster of blue chippers. It’s obviously better for them to get the junk out of their system early, but they no doubt need to find themselves before SEC play. Best bet: Forget about these last few days, be happy with this win, and regroup. Although the West Virginia loss was bad, Gator fans can count themselves very lucky. With a different result last night, the woofing from Tallahassee would have never stopped.

Side Dishes

ACC on Top: On the strength of its 5-4 victory in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge this week, the ACC leads all conferences in winning percentage with a 30-6 record (.833) through last night’s games. The Big East is running second at 47-13 (.783). Rounding out the top five: Big 12 at 39-13 (.750), SEC 40-16 (.714), and the Mountain West Conference rolls with the big boys at 28-12 (.700). The Big Ten, thanks in large part to winless Michigan and Penn State squads, has only the eighth-best tally with a 30-18 record (.625).

Favorites Coast: With the exception of the Gators’ near choke, the favorites went virtually untested in the world of college hoops last night. The Big Ten picked up three victories against lesser opponents as other conference powers joined in on the pummeling of the little guys. Among them: Iowa over Montana State by 21; Minnesota over powerhouse Bethune-Cookman by 27; Purdue by 29 over Middle Tennessee State; and The ‘Cuse giving it to Cornell by 23.

Tonight’s Menu:

• Our tradition’s better than your tradition: OK, so it’s ToDAY instead of tonight, but UNC (No. 13) at Kentucky (No. 19) at 2:00 ET is a much needed viewing experience. No Dean and no Adolph. But trust me, neither one of those guys ever had freshmen that could get out and run like this. Treat yourself to a little Ray Felton in the afternoon.

• Arizona’s (No.1) trouncing of San Diego State will get underway at 9:00 ET.

• Blake Stepp and the Zags at Washington State around 10:00 P.M. ET.

• Holla back, Hollis: Price and the Sooners (No. 8) host Hartford at 8:00 ET.

Enjoy your Saturday, people.

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