7:00 PM ET, December 22, 2003
Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida
Matt Walsh, Christian Drejer and Anthony Roberson, who combined for the majority of Florida's 30 assists.Lee also hit one from the top of the key and a 14-footer from the baseline."I was happy with the two outside shots I hit," he said. "Other than that, there were a lot of good passes. I've been working with the coaches on finishing strong."The perfect night broke the school record of 10-for-10, set in 1981 by Randall Leath. The 12-for-12 SEC mark was last accomplished by Jarrell Evans of Mississippi and Rodney Dent of Kentucky, both in 1994.And make no mistake, the Gators (7-2) needed every bit of Lee's sharp shooting.With a roster made up of seven players from Florida -- three more than the Gators -- scrappy Northeastern (5-5) kept the game within six points over the first 15 minutes.The Huskies fell behind by as many as 26 midway through the second half. But Florida got sloppy and went cold, failing to score a field goal for eight minutes, and when Jose Juan Barea threw a twisting, left-handed flyer in over Lee's outstretched hands, Northeastern had pulled within nine with 9:23 remaining.The teams traded buckets over the next few minutes. Not until Roberson (17 points, five assists) strung together consecutive assists, one to Adrian Moss, the next to Walsh (13 points, six assists), did the Gators take a 92-77 lead and have the game in hand with about 3 minutes left."They're very, very weak mentally," Florida coach Billy Donovan said of his players. "When things don't go well for them personally, they have to fight through that and show a better level of intensity."Northeastern showed most of the intensity Monday night.Four Huskies are graduates of Miami High School. Another three come from elsewhere in Florida. All were passed over, for one reason or another, by Florida schools, and this was their one chance to shine this season in their home state."I know what it means to these kids," Northeastern coach Ron Everhart said. "They all wanted to come here and give great effort. They all wanted to come here and play well. They all had their families here. We don't get these opportunities very often."Darting and dashing his way across the court, Barea finished with 17 points and eight assists.Marcus Barnes, who played at University of Miami before being kicked off the team, led the Huskies with 20 points. He also won the award for coolest shoes -- a pair of shiny, red, patent-leather high tops with black shoelaces.But the Huskies were much more than just flash. Northeastern pressed and harassed the Gators into 21 turnovers. The Huskies ran the floor better than the Gators and forced them to commit 26 fouls and send them to the free throw line 36 times."The fact we kept fouling them, I almost felt like we were looking for an easy way out in the second half," Donovan said.Had the Huskies made more than 20 free throws -- that's 55 percent -- this could have been the Upset of the Week. Instead, it was just a nice effort before they face Curry next Monday, then start their America East Conference schedule Jan. 2.Florida, which got 20 points from Drejer, plays Eastern Kentucky on Saturday before what should be an interesting meeting, Jan. 3 against Florida State (10-1).And while Lee can't get any better, Donovan is convinced the rest of his team can."It is what it is," he said. "We've got a very young basketball team. They're up and down."
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