5:00 PM ET, November 27, 2004
MIAMI (AP) -- For the first time, Billy Donovan wanted his alma mater to lose. And Matt Walsh made that happen.Walsh scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, helping Florida (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today; No. 23 AP) defeat Providence 84-66 Saturday and earning MVP honors for the third time in three appearances at the Orange Bowl Classic."I've had three pretty good games here," said Walsh, who led Florida past Miami two years ago and West Virginia last season at the event. "I don't know if it's the arena or the atmosphere or what. Every time I come here I've had great experiences, but we've also had three wins -- and I think that's the most important thing."Walsh was 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3-point range for the Gators (3-0). Anthony Roberson added 17 points and seven assists for Florida, which hit 57 percent of its shots.Ryan Gomes had 17 points for Providence (4-2), which was playing its third game in four days.Tuukka Kotti had a career-high 17 -- 16 in the first half -- for the Friars, who lost to No. 1 Wake Forest in Wednesday's Preseason NIT semifinals, beat Michigan in Friday's consolation game at Madison Square Garden, then boarded a charter flight to Miami and faced the Gators 17 hours after landing."It's been a good learning experience," Gomes said. "I don't think there's any games on the schedule that'll be like this. We competed with the No. 1 team in the country three days ago, and competing against two good ranked teams ... makes us better as a team."It was the first time Donovan coached against Providence, the school he led to the 1987 Final Four as a player. Donovan, a 1999 inductee to the Friars' Hall of Fame, averaged 20.6 points that season for Rick Pitino's club, won the team's MVP award twice and still ranks among Providence's top 15 in career scoring.The weary Friars could have used some of his spark down the stretch Saturday. Providence managed only two field goals in the final 8:55."I follow those guys every single game," Donovan said. "I still look for Providence scores. I want to see them do well. I'm very thankful for the people at Providence who touched my life, who took an active interest in me personally basketball-wise. It was a great place."Until the final minutes, Providence hung tough against a team that hadn't played since Tuesday.Dwight Brewington's two free throws with 8:25 left brought Providence within 62-55, but the Friars didn't score again for more than 3 minutes -- and Florida pulled away with a quick 8-0 run.Lee hit two free throws and Walsh then connected on back-to-back 3-pointers for a 70-55 lead with 6:02 left. Another Walsh basket with 3:45 left pushed Florida's margin to 74-57.Gomes hit a pair of 3-pointers within a 22-second span, cutting the margin to 74-63, but the Friars didn't seriously threaten the Gators again."The gas tank ran empty the last six, seven minutes," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "We were hanging with them but we couldn't get over that hump. Against a good team, if you don't keep scoring and get a couple stops, they can pull away quick. And they did. They have a lot of answers."David Lee had 16 points and Taurean Green added 13 for the Gators."We've got a lot of young guys who got a lot of experience the last few days," Gomes said. "That'll help down the road."
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