Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Fans Find Time for Billy's Team

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Fans Find Time for Billy's Team

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE -- There was an air of anticipation yesterday morning on the University of Florida campus. Surprisingly, it had nothing to with wanting to know if any of the seven football recruits taking official visits made any oral commitments.

People actually started lining up near the O'Connell Center five hours before tipoff to the Florida-Tennessee game, hoping to scrounge up whatever leftover tickets were available. Some students were quietly playing Monopoly to pass the time.

But once the sellout crowd of 12,190 assembled inside the building, any resemblance to a pristine Boardwalk setting was gone.

Maybe it was the rage built up by seeing those orange Tennessee uniforms. Or the sight of 6-foot-7, 250-pound Udonis Haslem devouring UT's post players like they were junior varsity callups. More likely it was the pure joy of watching Billy Donovan's Gators sending another message about their promising future by running away with a 93-72 victory.

Whatever got the juices flowing, it produced the kind of homecourt advantage that Donovan has longed for since he came aboard three years ago. UF fans gave the Volunteers 40 minutes of yell.

"It felt like high school [at Miami Senior]," said Haslem, "having the fans jumping up and down and going wild."

So loud was the sustained, ear-ringing environment, it prompted Athletic Director Jeremy Foley to make a Joe Namath-like guarantee afterward about UF diversifying into a basketball school.

"It's going to happen this time, trust me," said Foley. "Write it down."

At least Foley had enough presence of mind not to take his optimism over the edge like point guard Teddy Dupay, who uttered: "Today was louder than Duke, louder than Kentucky."

Better, I suppose, that Dupay saved his freshman mistake for his postgame evaluation and not his on-court performance. He had no turnovers, five assists and 10 points, including a critical steal, 3-point shot and layup that enabled the Gators (14-3) to pull away in the second half. …

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