TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Joakim Noah wasn’t concerned that fifth-ranked Florida won again despite not playing particularly well.
“We have a lot of young guys and it takes a little time. … It’s a process,” Noah said, trying to put Sunday night’s 72-57 victory over Florida A&M in perspective.
“You don’t want your team playing your best basketball in November or December. At the end of the day, it’s what’s going on in March. That’s what really matters.”
Lee Humphrey scored 15 points, and Walter Hodge and Taurean Green had 11 apiece to help Billy Donovan tie Norm Sloan as Florida’s career victory leader.
Sloan won 235 games in 15 seasons served over two stints in which he raised expectations for the basketball program at the Southeastern Conference school. Donovan is 235-100 in his 11th season with the defending national champions.
“It’s something I’m proud of because of the length of time that I’ve been at Florida,” Donovan said, adding that’s it’s a tribute to his players.
“Norm Sloan was a great coach. … But for me to be part of it so quickly, I think that’s something I’ll reflect on and remember.”
Noah had a dominating performance despite taking only five shots and finishing with seven points, 17 rebounds and six blocks for Florida (9-2), which relied on the outside shooting of Humphrey, Hodge and Dan Werner to build a 17-point halftime lead.
“We had no answer for Noah,” Florida A&M coach Mike Gillespie said.
“I know he didn’t score, but our goal coming into the game was to make them shoot 35 3’s. That was our goal. Even though they’re a tremendous shooting team, we felt the only chance we had was to try to take away their inside scoring.”
Florida played without leading scorer and rebounder Al Horford, who sat out because of a high ankle sprain. The Gators have one more tuneup, Wednesday night against Stetson, before next Saturday’s highly anticipated home matchup against No. 4 Ohio State. Florida hopes is Horford can rejoin the lineup by then.
Corey Brewer returned for Florida after missing the previous three games with mononucleosis. He had three points and four rebounds in 11 minutes, while Chris Richard had six points and four rebounds filling in for Horford, who sat on the bench wearing a protective boot on his left foot.
Leslie Robinson had 11 points and Brian Greene added 10 for Florida A&M (5-6), which had won four straight after 1-5 start that included losses to Maryland, Illinois, Miami and Bradley.
Florida shrugged off the rust from an 11-day layoff and methodically built a 46-29 halftime lead, going 9-for-21 from 3-point range and shooting 50 percent overall.
Robinson and Greene did everything they could to keep Florida A&M close, but the Rattlers were simply unable to keep pace with the Gators’ sharpshooters.
Humphrey made four 3-pointers and Werner made three to help the Gators pull away. By the end of the night, Florida had made as many 3-pointers (15-for-36) as Florida A&M (5-for-15) attempted.
The Gators led by as many as 27 in the second half. The closest the Rattlers got the rest of the way was final score on Jon Mason’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Despite having a deep frontcourt that includes Noah, Horford, Brewer and Richard—all key contributors on last season’s national championship team— Florida has made 81 3-pointers in its last nine games.