Sunday, March 14, 2004

SEC: Gators cruise past Vandy to title game


Roberson, Walsh drive UF offense

The Associated Press

ATLANTA - Led by Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh, Florida again had the look of a No. 1 team.

Now, the Gators have a chance to win their first Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.

Roberson scored a career-high 35 points and Walsh, ignoring the usual heckling that accompanies his every move, added 20 to lead Florida past Vanderbilt 91-69 Saturday in a tournament semifinal.

Walsh bounced back from a miserable game - he was 1-of-15 shooting in a quarterfinal victory over Alabama - to help send the Gators (20-9) into today's final against No. 4 Kentucky.

Vanderbilt (21-9) probably has done enough to earn an NCAA bid, especially after knocking off regular-season champion Mississippi State on Friday night.

But the Commodores were blown out by Florida, a team that was ranked No. 1 in December, in the second half.

The Gators made 17 of 24 shots after the break and finished at 63 percent (32-of-51) overall. They turned a game that was tight at halftime - Florida led 40-38 - into a laugher.

Roberson and Lee Humphrey hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Gators ahead 70-60 with just less than nine minutes remaining.

Vanderbilt missed nine straight shots, going more than six minutes between field goals. By the time Scott Hundley broke the drought with four minutes left, Florida was cruising.

Roberson had a lot to do with it. The sophomore guard easily eclipsed his previous career best of 28 points with the highest-scoring game by a Florida player this season. He was hitting from everywhere - 7-of-8 on 3-pointers and 12-of-15 from the field overall.

Playing in its fourth SEC Tournament final, Florida will be going for its first title. The Gators and South Carolina are the only schools in the league without a tourney championship.

Kentucky has won the tournament 24 times, and Walsh probably is looking forward to a chance to get back at Wildcats fans. The last time he played in Rupp Arena, he was heckled so viciously that Kentucky sent a letter of apology to Florida.

Vandy fans taunted Walsh just about every time he touched the ball, but he wasn't paying attention. The sophomore was 8-of-11 from the field, making four shot from beyond the arc. He also had six rebounds, two assists and a block.

Mario Moore scored 16 points to lead Vanderbilt, which shot only 37 percent (25-of-68).

The first half gave little indication of the rout that was to come. Florida grabbed an early 19-13 lead, but the final minutes were more indicative of how things went.

Walsh hit a 3-pointer to put the Gators up 35-31. Dawib Przybyszewski answered with a dunk and a 3, sending the Commodores back ahead. Walsh sank another trey to push Florida to the lead, then Hundley got loose under the basket for a lay-in to tie the score at 38.

VANDERBILT (21-9)-Freije 4-12 2-2 11, Smith 4-7 0-0 9, Przybyszewski 4-12 0-0 10, Moore 6-19 0-0 16, Lakey 1-6 4-4 6, Holwerda 0-1 0-0 0, Payton 0-0 0-0 0, Cage 1-2 0-0 3, Hundley 3-4 1-2 7, Terrell 2-5 3-4 7, Skuchas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-68 10-12 69.

FLORIDA (20-9)-Lee 2-6 4-5 8, Walsh 8-11 0-0 20, Moss 4-5 5-5 13, Roberson 12-15 4-4 35, Humphrey 2-5 0-0 6, Abukar 0-2 0-0 0, Al-Kaleem 0-2 0-0 0, Appleby 0-0 0-0 0, Richard 3-4 1-2 7, Colas 1-1 0-0 2. Totals. 32-51 14-16 91.

Halftime-Florida 40-38. 3-Point goals-Vanderbilt 9-37 (Moore 4-14, Przybyszewski 2-8, Smith 1-3, Cage 1-2, Freije 1-5, Hundley 0-1, Lakey 0-4), Florida 13-22 (Walsh 4-6, Roberson 7-8, Humphrey 2-4, Abukar 0-2, Al-Kaleem 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Vanderbilt 30 (Hundley 7), Florida 34 (Lee 8). Assists-Vanderbilt 17 (Moore 4, Lakey 4), Florida 18 (Lee 6). Total fouls-Vanderbilt 16, Florida 12. A-NA.




C-USA TOURNAMENT
Knockout punch is Bearcats'
ONLINE EXTRA: Photos of Saturday's game
Daugherty: Bobbitt takes pain, then dishes some out
Defense is star of tournament championship

A-10 TOURNAMENT
XU's 4-for-4 makes history
Finn's role this day is hero

MORE TOURNAMENT HEADLINES
Area teams hope to land on higher ground
A foolproof guide to doing your bracket
Top 50 things we love about March Madness
UK able to make all the right moves
Experts believe 'Cats likely to be top seed
SEC: Gators cruise past Vandy to title game
Big 10: Harris shoots; Badgers rebound
Big 12: Mouton's 3-pointers spur Longhorns to title game
Big East: Connecticut claims sixth league title
Pac-10: Cardinal avenge their lone defeat
MAC: Western Michigan wins title, NCAA berth
Tate lifts unlikely Florida A&M in MEAC tourney
Quakers in D-III Final Four
Women: Oklahoma beats No. 2 Texas
A quick chat with ... Digger Phelps

PREP PLAYOFFS
Eagles show why team's ranked No. 1
With Moeller on ropes, Duncan takes command
CovCath's Listerman finally makes Sweet 16
Lancers heading to Sweet 16
Sycamore pulls upset over Princeton
Big Blue gets D-1 title
Amazons' 1st loss comes at high cost
Royals ousted; streak snapped
Groeschen: Norwood building athletic program
Ernst: Try this all-region tourney team
Prep sports results, schedules

REDS / BASEBALL
Haynes aces first big pitching test
ONLINE EXTRA: Reds e-mail Q&A
Inside Reds camp
Kelly: Nasty, but pain just hurts
Norton in fight for spot on staff
Fantasy baseball: Unproven rookies still worth a look
Maroth's many sleepless nights
Is Benson on the way out?
Williams' wish to be frozen alongside dad

BENGALS / NFL
Visits and offers, but no action yet
Chesley: Bengals are just 'bullying'
Forget salary; age might be key number
Law wants to leave Pats, calls team's offer an 'insult'

TOP O' THE SECOND
Teen finds groove as skater, excels on international stage
What's up with that?
Area swimmers going national
Planning ahead: Must-see TV
This week's poll question
All thumbs

MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Long shot pulls upset in Fla. Derby
Inman gives Petty team nudge in right direction
NBA: Rockets halt Memphis
Sports digest
Sports today on TV, radio