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Gators regain lead, roll into semis

TEMPE, Ariz. — Walter Hodge scored 18 and Chandler Parsons added 15, and Florida defeated Arizona State 70-57 on Tuesday night in the NIT quarterfinals.

The Gators, the two-time defending NCAA champions, had an early 17-3 lead evaporate, falling behind on Jerren Shipp's 3-pointer with 13:30 to go. But Florida (24-11) responded with a 15-6 run and put the game away on Parsons' 3-pointer with 2:32 left.

Nick Calathes had 11 points and nine assists for Florida. The Gators shot a season-high 60.5 percent and picked apart Arizona State's zone defense with 26 field goals on 23 assists.

James Harden scored 18 points for ASU (21-13).

The Gators play Massachusetts in the semifinals at New York's Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Last March, the Gators were steaming toward their second straight NCAA title. On Tuesday night, they found themselves in the desert against the motivated Sun Devils, who were still angry over their snub by the NCAA Tournament selectors.

The game matched longtime friends and colleagues Billy Donovan of Florida and Herb Sendek of Arizona State. Sendek served on Rick Pitino's Providence staff when Donovan played for the Friars, and the two served on Pitino's staff at Kentucky.

Tensions ran high despite the friendship. At one point, Donovan was speaking to an official during a timeout when an incensed Sendek dropped his clipboard and stormed toward center court, where he was intercepted by another official.

Both teams stumbled down the stretch in the regular season but turned it up in the NIT. Florida won its first two tourney games by an average of 26, and ASU by 11 and 14.

Early on, the Gators looked like the hotter team, sprinting to a 14-point lead after six minutes. The Gators hit four 3-pointers during that flurry, two by Hodge. The Gators shot 61.9 percent from the floor in the first half, and 46.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Arizona State went on an 8-2 run midway through the half and trailed 35-29 at halftime.

UMass 81, Syracuse 77: Dante Milligan dunked off a feed from Chris Lowe with 28 seconds left and the Minutemen (24-10) rallied from 15 down in the final eight minutes of a quarterfinal.

"I told our guys at halftime I wasn't really happy," Massachusetts coach Travis Ford said. "I told them, 'Get your heads up. We're lucky we're only down 19 (43-24).' That was the worst half of basketball we've played all year. But the way we play, 19 points wasn't a problem."

Massachusetts, a No. 2 seed, is the first to beat the top-seeded Orange (21-14) twice in the Carrier Dome in the same season. The Minutemen rallied from 12 down in November.

Massachusetts is 4-0 against Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, the only team the Hall of Famer has coached at least two games against and hasn't beaten.

"We just missed too many shots around the basket," Boeheim said. "There's no excuse for that. When a team presses you and gambles like they did, you've got to score and we just didn't."

LATE MONDAY NAIA: James Spencer scored 25 and Mountain State beat top-seeded Georgetown, Ky., 78-65 in the semifinals of the NAIA Tournament, ending the Tigers' bid to become the first unbeaten team in 18 years to win the small-college championship.

Spencer, the NAIA's second-leading scorer this season, had 16 in the first half as the fifth-seeded Cougars (34-2) seized a 42-31 lead and reached the final for the third time in six seasons.

Georgetown (35-1), which has won 25 or more for 17 straight seasons, never led and never found a rhythm for what had been the NAIA's second-leading offense. The Cougars, who led the NAIA with a .390 field-goal percentage defense, held Georgetown to 41 percent shooting and 4-of-22 on 3-pointers. Georgetown's 65 points were 28 below its season average.

Gators regain lead, roll into semis 03/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:47am]
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