Calathes Carries Gators in Big Win

When the selection committee convenes in March to choose the 65 teams that will play in the NCAA Tournament, they'll look at quality non-conference wins as a determining factor. Florida may have given itself a big boost with a thrilling 68-66 win at home against N.C. State.

Sophomore guard Nick Calathes provided the boost for the Gators, scoring a career high 32 points, and it was a floater in the lane with 11 seconds left that gave Florida a one-point lead. After a huge defensive stop by Walter Hodge on the other end of the floor, Calathes then knocked down a free throw to help seal the two-point win over the visiting Wolfpack.

Freshman Erving Walker also had a big day coming off the bench. Walker scored eight points and grabbed two steals in 20 minutes played. But it was Calathes' hot hand that really carried the Gators.

In the past, Florida's success was determined by the 3-point line. The Gators were miserable, hitting just 2-of-13 from behind the arc, but Calathes made 11-of-16 from the floor and dished out five assists to carry the Gators.

Dan Werner was the only other Gator to score in double figures, netting 10 points. Chandler Parsons scored eight and Alex Tyus managed just five points and five rebounds, breaking a streak of five games where the sophomore forward scored at least ten.

The two teams went back and forth for the first 12 minutes, but the Wolfpack put together a run at the end of the first half. Brandon Costner's 3-pointer with 8:20 left tied the score at 15, and a layup by Courtney Fells gave N.C. State a 10-point lead at the break, 33-23. The Wolfpack would then score the first point of the second half, opening up an 11-point margin, which was their biggest of the game.

Trailing 39-30 with 16:46 left, the Gators would put together a run to get back into the game. Calathes would score five, and Walker would score six of his eight points during a 15-7 Gator run. With 11:42 left, they trailed by one, 46-45, and with 9:19 remaining, Walker would knock down a jumper giving the Gators a 49-48 lead.

N.C. State would score six straight points to take a 56-50 lead with 6:26 left, but Florida would come back. Calathes was fouled going to the basket, scored and hit the free throw to complete a 3-point play. He would then make a great feed to Parsons on another fast break to cut the lead to two points, 58-56. And just before the four-minute timeout, Calathes hit the Gators' second 3-pointer of the game, giving Florida a 59-58 lead.

The two sides exchanged one-point leads over the final three minutes before Calathes hit the big floater, giving the Gators a one-point margin with 11 seconds left. After Hodge's defensive effort, Calathes was fouled and made a free throw with three seconds left. He missed the second, though, allowing N.C. State one final shot at the buzzer, but the midcourt attempt banged off the backboard.

The Gators are back in action on Tuesday for their final warm-up before the conference schedule gets underway. Longwood comes to the O'Connell Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

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