No. 7 Florida Downs No. 12 Mississippi
Feb. 21, 2001
By EDDIE PELLS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - It seems no Florida victory would be complete without an injury to worry about.
Udonis Haslem scored 21 points Wednesday night to lead the seventh-ranked Gators to a 75-55 victory over No. 12 Mississippi, a win tempered by yet another injury to Gators forward Brent Wright.
Early in the second half, the side of Wright's right shoe blew out as he landed after a twisting layup, causing him to come down awkwardly on the same foot he had surgically repaired in January.
Doctors helped him off the floor and took him to the hospital for X-rays. They were negative, and his surgically implanted screw remained in place, but the senior forward is questionable for Saturday's game against Alabama.
"It will depend on how much pain he can tolerate," coach Billy Donovan said. "It's a situation where there's no news. He's walking fine, he's not on crutches. He could be on the floor playing, or it could be 10 days before he feels confident enough."
Matt Bonner, whose playing time picks up when Wright leaves, finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds as Florida (19-5, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) won for the eighth time in nine games.
Backup guard Jason Harrison had 20 points, four assists and five steals for the Rebels (21-5, 9-4), who had their six-game winning streak snapped.
Ole Miss trailed by 18 when it started pressing to trim the lead. Justin Reed had a steal and an easy layup to follow a 3-pointer by Harrison, as part of a 9-0 run that trimmed Florida's 18-point lead to 57-48.
After a quick timeout, the Gators answered with 11 straight points of their own, including five free throws from Bonner and a thundering dunk from Haslem - his fourth of the night - off a nice pass from guard Brett Nelson.
"We've been on a great run, but we know Florida has the offensive
weapons," Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said. "Basically, it was their game. We
played the game they wanted to play, and when you do that, it's tough."
Indeed, Florida's press forced the Rebels into playing a style they're not used to. Rushed into their offense, they shot just 36 percent, including a combined 0-for-14 by Aaron Harper and Jason Flanigan.
Forced into Florida's up-tempo style, Mississippi's defense, the stingiest in the SEC, gave up 13 more points than its season average, although Barnes didn't see that as the entire problem.
"Even if it's our game, in our control, we still would have had a tough time," he said. "There's a reason they're ranked ahead of us."
Florida won despite making only five 3-pointers, its second-lowest total this season. Donovan said that while the offense was good, defense carried the day. He called it Florida's best defensive game of the season.
"We were very disruptive and active, flying around," he said.
Rahim Lockhart had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Rebels, and Reed finished with 10 points.
Teddy Dupay had 14 points for Florida, and Nelson had 11 with five assists.
In addition to the foot, Wright has also missed time this season with a broken thumb. After the X-rays, he came back to the arena and was seen walking around in the corridor. His teammates sounded optimistic.
"He's had some bad luck this year," Nelson said. "He's probably the toughest person I know. We all know he'll be back as soon as he can."
That's been the story of this injury-riddled season for the Gators.
Dupay has also missed time with a bad back, and Justin Hamilton is gone for the year with a knee injury. Not even Donovan has escaped unscathed: He has been fighting the flu for three weeks, and spent one night in the hospital last week.
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