Gators Take Title in Jersey

The Florida Gators pulled away in the second half for an impressive 73-58 win over Rutgers in the championship final of the 2009 Legends Classic at the famous Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N..J., Saturday night.

The win capped a huge two-day performance by the Gators, who upset second-ranked Michigan State, 77-74, just 24 hours earlier in a tough and demanding semifinal game.

"I thought it was a great weekend for our basketball team," UF head coach Billy Donovan said in his postgame interview on WRUF radio. "We got a chance to find out a lot about ourselves. Last night was a great victory over a very, very good team.. Tonight, we didn't play a great game, but we had a level of resiliency and found a way to win the game. It was kind of an ugly game, and we had to kind of grind through it."

Leading by just five at halftime, UF opened up a 12-point lead, 48-36, on back-to-back 3-pointers by guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker with 12 minutes left and steadily pulled away from there. The lead reached 15, 59-44, when Chandler Parsons, who had seven points, went coast-to-coast for a layup with the clock ticking under the eight-minute mark, and the Gators would lead late by as many as 20, 71-51, on back-to-back hoops by Ray Shipman before settling for the 15-point victory.

Boynton, held to a season-low six points in Friday night's upset of the Spartans, led Florida with 19 points, and junior center Vernon Macklin had a career-high 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and added seven rebounds as head coach Billy Donovan's squad remained unbeaten on the season, UF's first 6-0 start in three years. Walker added 11 points and five assists, joining Macklin in being named to the All-Tournament team.

Rutgers was led by sophomore guard Mike Rosario, who came into the contest as the Scarlet Knights' leading scorer, averaging 19 points a game. He had 22 in Rutgers' semifinal win over UMass Friday, but managed to score just 14 against UF and was just 5-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. Seven-foot center Hamady Ndiaye from Senegal added 12 points and blocked five shots.

The Gators, who came into the game converting just 24.5 percent from 3-point range, were a respectable 7-of-19 from behind the arc, with Boynton and Walker each hitting three treys. Parsons had the other.

"I really thought that the way they played defense against us, we would get a chance to get some more open and decent looks, and it was great to see Erv knock down a couple of deep ones in the first half, Boynton knock down a couple and Chandler knock one down," Donovan said.

UF shot a solid 53 percent from the field for the game and limited Rutgers to a 42-percent shooting effort, including holding the Scarlet Knights to just 3-of-17 from 3-point range. UF also won the rebounding battle, 29-27 and forced 15 turnovers.

"We shot the ball a little bit better, our turnovers were a little bit lower, and our assists were up," noted Donovan. "I didn't think it was a great defensive effort, though, but sometimes when you're coming off a big win like last night, you're a step slow, and sometimes your defense gets a little more exposed."

After Jonathan Mitchell, a former Florida player (2007-08) who transferred to Rutgers and sat out last season, gave Rutgers a 2-0 lead, UF responded with six straight points to take the lead and maintained it until halftime. The Gators biggest lead of the half was eight, 17-9, when freshman forward Erik Murphy, who gave UF a boost off the bench and finished with eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, scored back-to-back baskets. The Scarlet Knights, however, were able to trim the lead to five, 34-29, at the break.

Florida returns home Tuesday to take on Florida A&M. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m., with the game part of a men's and women's doubleheader. The Lady Gators take on the Lady Rattlers at 4:30.

Fightin Gators Top Stories