Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gators win Conference Tuneup Over ACC Contender NC State

By JC De La Torre

The University of Florida Gator basketball team was in desperate need of a measuring stick. After feasting on a schedule of cupcakes and losing to the only two teams that would be considered candidates for the big dance (Florida State and Syracuse), the Gators needed a "quality win". They got it in dramatic fashion against a solid NC State sqaud, rallying from an 11 point deficit to win 68-66.

Florida's Super Sophomore Nick Calathes led the Florida charge with a career high 32 points, 24 of which came in the second half of the Gators thrilling come back. The two teams began by feeling each other out, neither team getting more than a two point lead until the Wolfpack's Julian Mays drilled a three pointer with 6:08 left in the first half to give NC State a 20-15 lead, triggering a 13-9 run at the end of the first half that gave the Wolfpack a 33-23 half time lead.

With 16:13 left in the game and trailing 39-30, Florida began to increase the heat defensively, causing multiple Wolfpack turnovers that sparked an 11-4 rally that cut the lead to 43-41 with 12:45 left. The teams would exchange blows, with the Wolfpack getting no larger than a five point lead until finally, with 3:59 left in the game, Calathes's arching three pointer put the Gators up for the first time since midway through the first half, 59-58. Calathes took the game over in the final four minutes, scoring the last eight Gator points as the teams exchanged the lead eight times in the closing minutes. Calathes put the Gators up to stay with eleven seconds left with an incredible jumper that clanked around the rim before dropping and giving Florida a 67-66 lead. NC State would fumble the ball away on their ensuing trip down the floor and Calathes would add a free throw for the final margin.

The Gators improved to 12-2 on the season and have one last cupcake, Longwood (, before embarking on the tough SEC schedule that should decide whether they will be part of the madness in March.

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