Florida Takes Crown

Rutgers hangs tough but falls 73-58

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 28, 2009

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Florida's Vernon Macklin scores two of his 14 points.

Florida figured to have a letdown after their upset victory over Michigan State on Friday night. Beating Rutgers to win the Legends Classic would be a nice accomplishment, but secondary to topping the No. 2 ranked Spartans. However, for Rutgers, a win over Florida would be a major step forward in their season and they played like they wanted to take that step.

Florida had other plans. After letting Rutgers hang around for 30 minutes, the Gators went for the kill and pulled away for the 73-58 victory and the Legends Classic Championship Saturday night, Nov. 28, at Boardwalk Hall.

Florida began pulling away with 10 minutes to go, as the Knights appeared to get worn down by the energy it took to break the Florida press. The team had battled, and at one point broke that press twice in a row resulting in dunks for energetic Rutgers center Hamady Ndiaye. Any hope for momentum being generated by those plays was quickly wiped away by an 11-2 Florida run that increased their lead to 17 points with 7 minutes left.

In an entertaining first half, the Knights, buoyed by their vocal fans at Boardwalk Hall, didn’t let the Florida press that had mastered Michigan State the night before take them out of their game plan. Led by their leading scorer and playmaker Mike Rosario (11 points on four of eight shooting), and the defensive prowess of inside force Ndiaye, the Knights battled the Gators, ending the half down just five, 34-29.

However, the Gators defense kept Rosario in check the second half when he scored only three points, finishing with 14 on five of 15 shooting. Florida countered with a balanced attack led by freshman guard Kenny Boynton with 19, Vernon Macklin with 14 and tournament MVP Erving Walker with 11 points and five assists.

In the first game of the night, the crowd knew the UMass Minutemen were going to be facing an angry, determined Michigan State team, frustrated by their bad play in a loss to Florida the night before. The Spartans did take out their frustration on the outmanned Minutemen, who fell to the Spartans 106-68 in the consolation game.

With a game against North Carolina looming this Tuesday (Dec. 1), Tom Izzo wanted to see his team regroup.  The Spartans were too much for UMass: too much size inside and too many three pointers (8 of 15 in the first half). The excellent UMass guard combo of Ricky Harris and Anthony Gurley scored 31 of their team’s 38 points in the first half to State’s 55, but in the end it was not nearly enough to stop the Spartan onslaught. The game gave Izzo 341 wins for his career at State, passing his mentor, Jud Heathcote, to have the most wins in the school’s history.

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