Scores

Final

Ole Miss 55

(12-9, 3-7 SEC)

(4) Florida 74

(20-3, 9-1 SEC)

    8:00 PM ET, February 12, 2003

    Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida

    1 2 T
    MISS 27 2855
    #4FLA 33 4174

    Gators hand Mississippi fifth straight loss

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Christian Drejer went from asking to be pulled from a game to taking one over.

    The Danish superstar finally showed what all the fuss over his arrival at Florida was about, finishing with 11 points and five assists Wednesday to lift the (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) Gators to a 74-55 win over Mississippi.

    Drejer dominated the second half, making a 3-pointer and dishing out four pretty assists during a 23-3 run that helped the Gators (20-3, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) turn a two-point game into a blowout.

    It was a far cry from last Saturday, when the 20-year-old freshman asked coach Billy Donovan to take him out of the game because the injured foot that has plagued him all season left Drejer doubting his ability.

    "It's been really tough,'' Drejer said. "You don't expect to go on the kind of adventure I've been on. But it has made me realize some things, like to be happy when you wake up, happy you can walk, happy you can play the game.''

    Florida reached the 20-victory mark for the fifth straight season.

    The Rebels (12-9, 3-7) lost their fifth straight, mainly because they were unable to solve a 2-3 Florida zone that shut down the middle and forced them to work the ball around the perimeter in the second half.

    It was an unusual strategy for the Gators, but not as unusual as their star of the game. That was Drejer, who's had trouble finding confidence because of the foot injuries that put him in the hospital for much of the fall and on the bench through most of the early season.

    "This was a breakout game for Christian,'' Donovan said. "It's the way he was making the game easy for everyone. Maybe you could see some of the things I saw before he was hurt.''

    Drejer, the Danish League player of the year last season, played in just his eighth college game. He made his first two 3-pointers of the season and had three rebounds and a steal to go with the assists.

    The Gators finished with 16 assists, and almost everyone got into the act: Freshman Matt Walsh threw the best pass of the game -- a no-look alley-oop toss to David Lee from the top of the key that Lee slammed for a 60-34 lead.

    Drejer wasn't alone among the surprise stars.

    Center Bonell Colas had 14 points, including a three-point play and a thundering dunk off a rebound in the first half. It was the most impressive game of the junior's spotty career, and it helped Florida take an early 22-16 lead after falling behind by eight early.

    "I've been keeping my game plan pretty simple,'' Colas said. "It's just go out, play hard, and let things come to me.''

    Justin Hamilton scored 10 points for the Gators. He took a sweet pass from Drejer for a dunk, and he also made a 3-pointer during the decisive run in the second half.

    Freshman Anthony Roberson had 15 to lead Florida, which won its 17th straight at home and pulled within a half-game of Kentucky in the SEC East. The Wildcats defeated Florida 70-55 last week.

    David Sanders led Ole Miss with 15 points, but the Rebels shot just 34 percent from the field. They haven't won since Jan. 25 against Arkansas and have lost their last two games -- to Kentucky and Florida -- by a combined 37 points.

    "You just deal with it as a coach,'' Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. "You know there are going to be times you're going to struggle a little, times you're going to have setbacks. I would be concerned if the kids weren't getting back up and showing the desire, but I don't see that.''

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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