3:30 PM ET, November 24, 2002
Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Three games, two fantastic freshmen, one thoroughly convinced coach.Florida (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today; No. 8 Associated Press) stayed on a freshmen-inspired tear Sunday, getting 26 points from Anthony Roberson and 19 from Matt Walsh in an 88-45 victory over Coastal Carolina. Roberson, the diamond in Billy Donovan's latest freshman class, has 59 points in Florida's first three games, all victories. His 26 points matched the opening-night output of Walsh, a less-heralded recruit who has 65 points, 17 assists and 14 steals. Florida's next game is its first big test -- Wednesday in New York against Stanford in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. But Donovan isn't playing it coy anymore. He thinks the freshmen are the real deal. ''The biggest issue was whether they'd be able to sustain it,'' Donovan said. ''The key was to focus and concentrate on every pass. These guys have proven they can do it.'' Florida took a break from the NIT to play the absurdly overmatched Chanticleers (1-1), who fell behind by 16 after 10 minutes and didn't go on as much as a 4-0 run until 16 minutes remained in the second half. The only drama came at the very end, when walk-on Chris Capko missed a shot at the buzzer that would have given Florida its 90th point and won free hamburgers for the crowd. The rest of the second half was drudgery, as Florida shot 26 free throws (40 for the game) and never got into any flow because of Coastal Carolina's 27 fouls. Like the coaches of Louisiana Tech and Eastern Illinois before him, Coastal Carolina's Pete Strickland was impressed by Florida's talent. ''They're awful good -- awful being how I feel about how good they are,'' Strickland said. Once again, Walsh had the highlight of the day -- actually two of them. Midway through the first half, he threw a no-look pass over his shoulder to David Lee for an easy layup. ''If I see someone open, I'm just going to throw it to them, and that's about all I have to say about it,'' Walsh said. Then, with time running out in the half, he made a double-clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer. After it went through, Walsh turned around and ran to the locker room flashing the No. 1 sign to the crowd. Walsh and Roberson were so good, it almost went unnoticed that senior Matt Bonner was held to only four points and four rebounds in limited play. He took a nasty hit early in the game and spent much of the game on the bench with back spasms. Donovan said the injury didn't appear serious, but there was no need to tax him on this night. Another senior, Justin Hamilton, didn't take a shot and scored only two points. It was, in Donovan's eyes, as impressive as anything Walsh or Roberson did. ''In a 40-point win today, he doesn't take one shot,'' Donovan said. ''How many seniors would be able to emotionally handle two freshmen, one scoring 26 and one scoring 19, and be totally consumed with just winning?'' Lee, a sophomore, also stayed on an impressive early streak, with 16 points and seven rebounds. Donovan said he wasn't sure if senior guard Brett Nelson's foot will be healed sufficiently for him to play Wednesday. Another freshman, Christian Drejer, is out until at least January with an infection in his ankle. Torrey Butler scored 17 points for the Chanticleers, members of the Big South who are named after a rooster in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
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