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December 20, 2006

No. 5 Florida cruises past Stetson 88-67

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -Joakim Noah made up for the absence of Al Horford, scoring 16 points and leading No. 5 Florida to an 88-67 victory over 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.

The Gators (10-2) improved to 8-0 at home and made Billy 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.

Donovan took them to a new level by leading Florida to its first national championship last season.

Florida's toughest challenge this season could come Saturday against No. 3 Ohio State, especially if Horford (ankle) is unable to play against the Buckeyes' 7-foot freshman, Greg Oden.

The 6-10 Horford spent Wednesday's game on the bench in a warmup suit. Thanks mostly to Noah, the Gators didn't need him.

Garfield Blair led the Hatters (3-8) with 18 points, while Sheldon Oliver added 14 - all in the second half.

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.

Corey Brewer and Walter Hodge were equally impressive for Florida.

Brewer, playing his second game since sitting out three contests with mononucleosis, had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Hodge, a sophomore, added 17 points and was 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line.

Hodge improved to 21-of-30 from behind the arc this season.

Stetson jumped in front 7-0 and led 17-15 before Dan Werner's 3-pointer with about 13 minutes to play in the first half. The basket started a 22-4 run that turned a close game into a rout.

Florida led 44-30 at halftime and quickly extended the lead to 20 early in the second.

Noah and Brewer scored 10 of the team's first 13 points in the second half.

For more coverage of the Florida Gators, check out GatorBait.net.

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