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UF cruises from outside

What, really, is there left for DeLisha Milton to prove?

First-team All-American. Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. There isn't a soul left in Gainesville who doesn't know her name.

So Saturday, for once, Milton gave up the spotlight to her Florida teammates.

With Milton on the bench in foul trouble for much of the first half, fans at the first NCAA Tournament game at the O'Connell Center got a look at something different: three-pointers. The third-seeded Gators (22-8) were hot from the perimeter _ supposedly the weakest part of their game _ in their 92-68 victory over No.

14 seed Florida International.

Led by the outside shooting of Talatha Bingham and Dana Smith, Florida made a season-high 11 threes in shooting a mind-boggling (for them) 42.3 percent. That included a 7-of-16 effort in the first half, in which the Gators roared to a 49-29 lead.

UF, which ranked near the bottom of the SEC in three-point shooting, had not made more than eight in a game.

"Thought it was dead, didn't you?" Gators coach Carol Ross said of the perimeter game. "All week we've been priming (the guards) for the NCAAs. We felt like this would be a good time to unveil our secret weapons."

So much for first-round jitters, which got UF knocked out of the tournament as a No. 5 seed last season. UF takes on No. 6 seed Southern Cal at 8 p.m. Monday.

The 6-foot-1 Milton made Florida's first two points _ to deafening cheers, naturally. But that was it for the half as FIU defenders clung to her, and one by one, the rest of the Gators stepped up.

First it was Smith, who scored a quick 11, including three threes, to help UF to a 23-6 lead. Then it was reserve Tiffany Travis and forward Jackie Wright, who scored the next 13 points between them.

Bingham was next. She closed the half with three three-pointers, then opened the second with three more. Her first of the second half made her UF's all-time three-point shooter, with 112.

The Gators had just enough of an inside game to balance it out and keep FIU (21-9) off-balance. Florida outrebounded the Golden Panthers 41-33.

Smith had a game- and career-high 21 points, and Bingham and Travis each added 18. Milton had just 4, but grabbed 12 rebounds and added 2 blocks.

"The SEC Player of the Year garnered a lot of attention tonight," Ross said. "They were playing, at times, it looked like three on her, and (it) had to be two most of the time. She knew the whole time she probably wasn't going to get the ball."

Besides, Smith said, Milton's low offensive total was a good thing. "I just think it's going to help us in the long run," she said. "More people will be aware the guards can shoot, the guards can score. Now we're like a whole different ballclub."

USC 68, SAN FRANCISCO 55: Southern Cal's game against No. 11 seed San Francisco (25-6) was less traumatic than its plane ride to Florida.

The Trojans (20-8) _ a bit shaken by turbulence on their flight from Atlanta _ recovered in time to knock off San Francisco. Led by senior forward Tina Thompson, a second-team All-American, USC outrebounded the Dons 45-33.

USC also shot 41.9 percent (21-of-50), the Dons 27 percent.

Thompson had 26 points and 15 rebounds.

More Mideast Regional

MARQUETTE 70, CLEMSON 66: Clare Barnard scored 23 points as Marquette (21-9) rallied to beat No. 21-ranked Clemson (19-10) at Baton Rouge, La., for its first tournament win.

LSU 88, MAINE 79: Pietra Gay scored 22 points, including 11 of 12 free throws, as No. 9-ranked LSU (24-4) held off Maine (22-8).

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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