Billy Donovan became the University of Florida's all-time winningest coach in a 88-67 victory over Stetson Wednesday night at the O'Connell Center. The Hatters tried to spoil the party by scoring the first seven points of game and did not relinquish the lead until the 13:20 mark in the first half.
'Florida is a great team,' said head coach Derek Waugh. 'I don't think we defended very well tonight but a lot of that has to do with the fact that Florida is good.'
Garfield Blair led the early charge for the Hatters. He scored nine of the first 13 for Stetson and finished with a team-high and career-high 18. He tallied 16 in the first half on 7-11 shooting. Sheldon Oliver scored in double figures for just the second time this year and all of his 14 points came in the second half.
The Hatters knocked down 10 of their first 13 shots (76.9%), but the Gators were able to keep pace and took the lead for good on Dan Werner's three-pointer with 13:20 to go in the half. That initiated a 19-4 Florida run that put the Gators ahead 37-21. Blair's three-point play near the break brought Stetson to within 44-30 at halftime.
'It was probably the best positive-energy team spirit we have had this year,' said Waugh. 'I thought we had some very good individual offensive performances. Garfield Blair especially was excellent tonight. Our game plan was to limit possessions and he did a great job of finishing those possessions with points.'
Florida built their lead to as many as 21 early in the second half. Stetson responded behind the inspired play of Oliver, whose free throws with 8:42 remaining brought the Hatters to within 64-51.
Walter Hodge hit five three-pointers and topped Florida with 17 points. Joakim Noah added 16 points and 8 rebounds. The Gators hit 60.7% percent of their shots and out-rebounded Stetson 34-20. Florida also added 16 second-chance points, compared to three for Stetson.
The Hatters dropped to 3-8 on the year, though the teams to which they have lost boast a combined record of 56-21 following Wednesday's game. Stetson next travels to Savannah State for a 4:00 pm game Saturday afternoon.