Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

NIT

Gators open NIT with rout of San Diego State

Florida’s Nick Calathes, who scored 16, drives for a layup as Ryan Amoroso, left, and Matt Thomas defend. The NIT opener attracted a season-low 5,188 at the O’Connell Center.

Associated Press

Florida’s Nick Calathes, who scored 16, drives for a layup as Ryan Amoroso, left, and Matt Thomas defend. The NIT opener attracted a season-low 5,188 at the O’Connell Center.

GAINESVILLE — When you're down and nothing seems to be going your way, there are really only two ways to go. You can stay there. Or you can pick yourself up and try to turn things around.

Coming off back-to-back national championships in basketball, Florida's failure to make the NCAA Tournament and its subsequent invite to the NIT was about as down as the Gators could get.

So Wednesday night, they tried to pick themselves up.

Led by 18 points from sophomore center Marreese Speights and 16 points from freshman guard Nick Calathes, the Gators defeated San Diego State 73-49 in the first round of the NIT at the O'Connell Center.

The victory came in front of a season-low 5,188, with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick attending with his friend, UF football coach Urban Meyer. Belichick smiled when students chanted "18-1'' and "Giants'' at him.

Florida (22-11) plays Creighton (22-10), a 74-73 winner over Rhode Island, Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Gainesville.

Florida ended a four-game losing streak and the win came less than a week after coach Billy Donovan banished players from their locker room and multimillion dollar practice facility and sent them to the O'Dome practice court following an embarrassing first-round loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament. Donovan also banned them from wearing UF gear on campus or in practices.

"We don't want to be back there; we have to earn it," sophomore forward Dan Werner said. "Just because of one game, it doesn't mean you earn it."

Donovan said players hadn't earned the spoils they were enjoying, but he was pleased with their effort Wednesday.

"I'm really, really proud of our guys," Donovan said. "I thought these guys really focused in and came with the right mindset. It was good to see them get rewarded."

San Diego State lacked the things that have hampered Florida all season: size inside, a 3-point threat and a stifling defense.

Florida led 35-23 at halftime. With 15:48 left in the game, Ryan Amaroso's 3-pointer pulled San Diego State within 41-32. But the Gators took control for good with a 14-2 run.

Florida shot 53.4 percent from the field, 43 percent on 3-pointers, and outrebounded San Diego State 35-22.

"We're nowhere near where we want to be right now, but our goal is to get better," Calathes said. "There has never been an NIT champion at Florida. We still have a chance to make history."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida 73

San Diego St. 49

Gators open NIT with rout of San Diego State 03/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 12:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays at Orioles, 1:35 p.m. Sunday, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Today: at Orioles

    1:35, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 1250-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)

  2. Rays Tales: Who's the team MVP? It's a vexing proposition

    The Heater

    Given that the Rays' season is — barring a much bigger story — going to end next Sunday, this is the time to reflect on what they did over the past six months — honor the good, acknowledge the bad and note some of the more interesting.

    Typically, that starts with the MVP.

    Corey Dickerson, left, and Steven Souza Jr. typify the conundrum: some good, some not so good.
  3. Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan feels good after first game action since January

    Sports

    TAMPA — As veteran RW Ryan Callahan was riding a stationary bike before Friday's exhibition game, he felt nervous. There was anxiety.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24) pursues Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons (10) during the first period of Friday (9/22/17) preseason game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. FSU players rally around freshman QB James Blackman

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — For the first few minutes Saturday, Florida State's James Blackman looked like a true freshman making his first start at quarterback for a big-time program.

    Florida State Seminoles quarterback James Blackman (1) gets sacked during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  Final score, North Carolina State Wolfpack 27, Florida State Seminoles 21.
  5. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.