No. 7 Florida found a wonderful way to open the weekend Friday night against rival Florida State. Gator fans can only hope the result across the street is half as impressive Saturday.
Florida dominated its annual basketball meeting with Florida State, forcing 29 turnovers in a season-opening 96-61 victory, the biggest margin in the 51-game history of the series.
Udonis Haslem scored 18 points and Teddy Dupay and Mike Miller had 15 each for the Gators, who jumped ahead early in front of a record crowd of 12,487.
"I thought our team's energy level defensively for 40 minutes was phenomenal," Donovan said. "It was just a constant harassing and chasing and a constant disruption. Overall, for a 40-minute game, our defense was very, very good."
The Gators forced 19 turnovers to build a 52-31 halftime lead. They led by as many as 37 in the second half.
Florida, which made the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament last year, was expected to be better this year thanks to a season of experience for sophomores Haslem, Dupay and Miller along with the arrival of two new heralded freshmen, Donnell Harvey and Brett Nelson.
Harvey made an inauspicious entry into the game, slipping at the scorer's table, but had no such trouble on the court, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Nelson backed up Dupay at point guard and finished with nine points and an assist.
But more than their statistics, the Gators impressed their coach by running the fullcourt tap he relies on so heavily.
"It was pretty obvious we like to press," Dupay said. "It's the mindset of the team and it really grows on you. You get it in your mind that you're going to give everything, play three minutes, get subbed, then go back in. That's the mindset. It was reflective tonight."
Many times, the Seminoles had trouble advancing out of their backcourt. When they did break the trap, they usually appeared rushed and confused.
"The pressure bothered us and it got us into a frenzy and it was just a snowball effect," said Florida State coach Steve Robinson. "We couldn't slow down enough to where we could execute what we needed to execute."
Florida State's leading scorer last year, Ron Hale, finished with 24 points on 6-for-14 shooting.
Hale played most of the game in a protective face cover after catching an errant elbow from Harvey. He also picked up a technical foul, when he took a frustrated swipe with his foot at Florida's Matt Bonner after a scramble for a loose ball.
The Seminoles, who finished 13-17 last season, got 13 points from Damous Anderson. They shot just 32 percent from the field. Their 29 turnovers resulted in 30 points for Florida.
The Gators should get a better test next week when they travel to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Georgetown, Southern Cal, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 24 Purdue are among the eight teams in the field.
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