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Late 14-0 run clinches bubble win

2/25/2004

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Another game, and maybe even the
season, looked to be slipping away for Florida. Anthony Roberson
wasn't about to let that happen.

Roberson hit a big 3-pointer to trigger a late 14-0 run
Wednesday night that helped turn a tie game into a crucial 69-58
win over South Carolina. It was part of a stellar night for the
sophomore guard, who finished with 24 points, seven assists and not
a single turnover.

"It crossed our minds about all the games we gave up that we
should have won down the stretch," Roberson said.

With the score tied at 53 with 4 minutes left, Roberson found a
little opening between himself and a defender, elevated and swished
the go-ahead shot. On the next possession, Matt Walsh hit a
3-pointer for a 59-53 lead.

Roberson, Walsh and David Lee scored all the points during the
late run and the Gators (16-8, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) won
their second straight since the sudden departure last week of
swingman Christian Drejer, who left to play professionally in
Spain.

No longer considered a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament, Florida
needs one more win to finish .500 in conference play, often a
strong selling point to the selection committee.

"We've all got to participate in our own survival a little
bit," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "You've got to go grab
the rope when you're out of the boat. That's not to say we're back
in the boat yet."

Also on the NCAA bubble, South Carolina (20-7, 7-6) trailed
48-43 but rallied to tie it behind two baskets and three free
throws from Rolando Howell. But the Gamecocks went scoreless for 3
minutes down the stretch and lost for the fifth time in seven
games.

"It seems like we went a lifetime without a basket," Gamecocks
coach Dave Odom said.

Howell led South Carolina with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Walsh scored 15 points for the Gators and Lee had 12. Florida
won two straight for the first time since Jan. 24-27, buoying their
chances of making the tournament.

But this can hardly be mistaken for a team on a roll.

Ranked No. 1 in the nation in early December, Florida had
trouble simply getting off a shot in the middle of the second half,
a span during which Lee shared the floor with four freshmen -- Ryan
Appleby, Mohamed Abukar, Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard -- none of
whom were even in Donovan's rotation at the start of the season.

South Carolina took a 43-38 lead during that stretch, but Walsh
responded with four points and an assist as part of a 10-0 run.
South Carolina responded with a 10-5 run to tie it, and Donovan
felt his players were worrying too much about officials' calls,
which were going against them, and not enough about fundamentals.

"I told them, it's time to be a man, go block out, get the
basketball and do the things you need to do," Donovan said.

They did. After Walsh's 3-pointer put Florida ahead by six, the
Gators got the ball back and Roberson hit Lee on a sweet pass for a
dunk. Howell missed and Roberson took the ball the length of the
floor for a driving layup to push the lead to 10.

Odom felt his team forgot about its game plan down the stretch.

"You'd think they would know how to stick with their plan all
the way through instead of deviating from it when the pressure gets
on," he said. "I'm very disappointed with the way we lost."