No. 5 Florida 88, Stetson 67

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Florida coach Billy Donovan slammed the clipboard to the floor, breaking it into several pieces and sending magnets flying across the court.

It wasn’t the first one he broke. It probably won’t be the last, either.

“That one actually split my hand,” Donovan said. “It was a good one.”

Donovan got his players’ attention midway through the second half and they responded by making him the winningest coach in school history.

Joakim Noah scored 16 points, making up for the absence of Al Horford and leading the fifth-ranked Gators to an 88-67 victory over pesky Stetson on Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-11 Noah took advantage of a considerable height advantage to dominate inside and finished 7-of-10 from the field. He had eight rebounds and four assists.

Noah was one of the few players Donovan didn’t berate during the game over a lack of energy and enthusiasm. The rest of them felt his wrath several times, most notably when Donovan smashed the clipboard with 7:34 remaining.

“When he feels like his team is not playing with that edge, he gets real mad,” Noah said.

Nonetheless, the Gators (10-2) improved to 8-0 at home and made Donovan the school’s winningest coach with victory No. 236. The 41-year-old Donovan broke Norm Sloan’s record in 11 seasons. Sloan won 235 games in 15 years spread over two separate stints that raised expectations for basketball at a football-driven school.

“It’s great to be a part of it,” said Taurean Green, who had 11 points and eight assists. “It’s a great accomplishment for Coach Donovan. He earned it. He deserved it.”

Donovan took the Gators to a new level by leading them to their first national championship last season.

Now, every opponent seemingly gives Florida its best shot. And Donovan has struggled to get his team to match that intensity.

The Gators came up short in losses to Kansas and Florida State, and had slow starts or lulls in several blowouts. The Hatters (3-8) provided another example.

They led 7-0 and prompted Donovan to call a timeout a little more than a minute into the game. He grew more irate as the game wore on and erupted midway through the second half, after Stetson cut the lead to 68-52.

And maybe there was cause for concern, especially with No. 3 Ohio State coming to town Saturday.

“If we play this was on Saturday, it’s not even going to be close,” Noah said. “It’s going to be real ugly.”

Florida might have to face the Buckeyes—and 7-foot freshman Greg Oden— without the 6-10 Horford (ankle), who spent Wednesday’s game on the bench in a warmup suit.

Thanks mostly to Noah, the Gators didn’t need him.

Noah scored seemingly at will against the Hatters. He had several layups, a dunk, a reverse layup and an impressive up-and-under move that he finished with a finger roll.

“There are no excuses,” Noah said. “We didn’t play with the right energy. We didn’t play with the enthusiasm and intensity that we should.”

Still, the Gators won relatively easily.

Corey Brewer, playing his second game since sitting out three contests with mononucleosis, had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Sophomore Walter Hodge added 17 points and was 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line. He improved to 21-of-30 from behind the arc this season.

Garfield Blair led the Hatters with 18 points—16 in the first half. Sheldon Oliver scored 14—all in the second half.

“The guys did a nice job of coming out and being prepares at a high level, but not holding them at an unattainable level,” Stetson coach Derek Waugh said.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
G. Blair G. Blair
8-14,  18 Pts
4 Rebs, 4 Assists
J. Noah J. Noah
7-10,  16 Pts
8 Rebs, 4 Assists

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