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Tampa Tribune
Published: Jan 3, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - Florida State didn't mess around Sunday afternoon in claiming its first homecourt victory against rival Florida in 17 years. The Seminoles, who had been difficult to figure through an erratic first month of the season, never trailed and never left room for doubt.

Von Wafer, Adam Waleskowski and Al Thornton combined for 55 points to lead a resounding 82-69 victory in front of 6,632 fans at the Donald Tucker Center, reminding FSU coach Leonard Hamilton of his team's potential as it prepares for full-time play in the ACC.

"This was a game that seemed to bring the best out of our team,'' Hamilton said.  "We have been very inconsistent with this type of effort this year. It's unfortunate it took an in-state rival, a good basketball team like the University of Florida, at home, to create the mind-set in our youngsters to go out and play the way we had hoped we would have been playing all year long.''

FSU (8-6) looked nothing like the team that lost to Florida International at home three weeks ago, bouncing the Gators around under the basket for a 44-20 advantage on the boards and limiting UF senior forward David Lee to two shots, prompting Gators coach Billy Donovan to bench his top inside scorer for nearly the entire second half.

The win was the first against Florida in Tallahassee since Dec. 3, 1988, and the first against the Gators anywhere since Dec. 14, 1997, in Orlando.

Florida (8-3), playing without leading scorer Matt Walsh, twice tried to make a game of it. The Gators cut an eight- point FSU lead to three on a basket by Chris Richard with 1:01 left in the first half, but the Seminoles scored 10 points in the final 54 seconds, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Wafer for a 13-point halftime lead.  "In my opinion, that was probably the period in the game that was the biggest factor for us,'' Hamilton said.

The Seminoles outscored UF 8-2 in the first four minutes of the second half to stretch the lead to 19. Wafer, who finished with 20 points, made three consecutive 3-point attempts to ignite the small, but boisterous crowd and his teammates.

Walsh suffered a high ankle sprain in practice Thursday and is out at least 10 days, Donovan said, adding that his absence probably wasn't the source of UF's problems against FSU, in light of the Seminoles' dominance underneath.

Lee (four points, two rebounds, 21 minutes on the bench), in particular, left Donovan exasperated, though Donovan questioned the insinuation that Lee and his frontcourt mates lack heart.  "I think sometimes people want to paint a picture with our frontcourt that our guys are soft and they're not tough,'' Donovan said.  "We're not as physically tough as [FSU center] Alexander Johnson, Adam Waleskowski and those guys. That was the bottom line and they hurt us on the glass.''

Johnson finished with 10 points and nine rebounds and Waleskowski had 18 points and eight rebounds.

Guards Anthony Roberson and Lee Humphrey led the Gators with 22 and 15 points (they combined to make seven of 18 3-point attempts) and helped UF crawl back to within nine on a 3 and a drive by Roberson with 5:52 remaining.

But they combined to miss open 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions and Thornton, whose 17 points gave FSU a 47-17 advantage in bench points, sealed the outcome with a steal and dunk with 3:01 remaining.

The Seminoles won despite committing 21 turnovers to UF's 12.  "This team has potential, but we've had a difficult time growing up,'' Hamilton said.  "Tonight it seemed from a mental standpoint that we were very, very focused and played with complete effort for 40 minutes.''
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