Gator Hoops: Brewer becomes Gators' Stopper on D

Pardon Anthony Roberson if he brags a little bit about his favorite freshman defender, small forward Corey Brewer. Roberson has to go up against the 6-8 Brewer in practice on a regular basis, so he's well aware how frustrating it can be to play against a guy whose arms more resemble tentacles and whose hands are fast enough that he could be a professor in a school for pickpockets.

Pardon Roberson, also, when he breaks into a little grin at the thought of Brewer going against Louisville All-America Francisco Garcia Saturday.

"Oh man, that's going to be fun," said Roberson Wednesday night after the Florida Gators had dismantled the outmanned Stetson Hatters, 93-54, before a crowd of 8202 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center that also included newly named UF football Coach Urban Meyer, his wife Shelley and their three children.

Brewer did his usual defensive magic with three steals and a blocked shot in nineteen minutes on the floor, plus he chipped in with seven points and four rebounds including a spectacular dunk off a pass from Roberson in transition after he disrupted Stetson's offense at midcourt.

"I love to play defense," said Brewer, who attributed his ability to clamp down on opponents to a lot of hard work, but a good bit of natural ability. "I had a good coach who worked me hard, and the coaches work me hard here, but a lot of what I do is just natural ability I'm blessed with. I don't know why, but I just see the ball and can go get it."

Brewer has proven in the relatively short six games of this his freshman year that he has the capability of becoming a true shut down defender. He's got quick feet and a sudden burst of speed that allows him to get into passing lanes, plus larcenous hands that tend to flick the ball away from a dribbler or tick a pass off target on a regular basis. He goes on streaks when he becomes the most disruptive force on the entire court.

"I know what he can do," said Roberson, who scored 12 points and led the Gators with a game-high seven assists. "I go against him in practice and he's got those long arms and he's so quick. He makes it tough to get a shot away."

Saturday, Brewer's initial assignment will be the 6-7 Garcia, tall, lanky and deceptively quick. Garcia ate the Gators up last year in Louisville, but this year he'll be matched against Brewer, who might be the Gators best bet at slowing down the Louisville scoring machine.

"That's gonna be fun to see," said Roberson, who hit three three-point shots in a run in which the Gators knocked down eight consecutive threes. "Corey's a great defensive player and Garcia's got all the shots. Man, you pay to see matchups like that."

It was the Gators defense that really got things moving Wednesday night. While that nine minute spell of three point shooting was about as good as you will ever see, the defense over that stretch was spectacular as Florida expanded its lead from 7-4 to 36-13.

"When we're playing good defense, our offense gets untracked," said senior power forward David Lee, whose 12 points came on a variety of high rise dunks. "When we're playing defense, we're a more unselfish team and we run. I think we can be pretty dangerous when we run."

The running game, which was so sorely lacking in last Saturday's stunning loss to Miami, came alive against outmanned Stetson, but the reason it was so good was the defense got it cranked up.

"We're a much better defensive team than we were last year," said Roberson. "The offense may not be there every night, but we can play hard on defense and make things happen."

The running game allowed Matt Walsh to get his game going, too. Held under double figures and frustrated by Miami, Walsh was energized by the defensive effort. He contributed a couple of three balls, but he also had a layup on the break off a Brewer steal and assist, plus a nice leaner in the lane in transition. He finished the night with 15 points on 6-9 shooting.

With the running game effective, the Gators also operated their half court offense with far greater efficiency than against Miami. Instead of a one pass, one shot scheme that was Florida's offense against the Hurricanes, the Gators moved the ball inside first, then let the big guys kick the ball out to the perimeter. The passing on the perimeter was also quite crisp.

"We did some good things tonight," said Coach Billy Donovan, who noted that the Gators did a much better job of starting the offense by going inside first. "We were trying to go inside first and then go to the outside. We told our guys that we should not take a perimeter jump shot if we're passing along the perimeter. The ball needs to enter the paint."

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