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Humphrey scores career-high 27; Florida wins ninth straight

Jan 13, 2007 - 10:53 PM COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Lee Humphrey made Dave Odom pay for his defensive strategy.

Humphrey made 7-of-8 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 27 points to lead second-ranked Florida to its ninth straight win, an 84-50 victory over South Carolina in a rematch of last season's Southeastern Conference championship game.

Odom coached South Carolina to two wins over the Gators last season, but Florida got the last laugh with a 49-47 victory in the SEC title game.

The Gators (15-2, 2-0 SEC East) went on to win the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The Gamecocks (10-4, 0-1 East) went on to win the NIT under Odom for the second straight season.

But while Florida returns all five starters from last year's team, the Gamecocks lost leading scorer Tarence Kinsey and three other starters - Renaldo Balkman, Antoine Tisby and Rocky Trice - from the 2005-06 team.

The only chance Odom had against Florida this time was to pack the lane and try to stop Joakim Noah and Al Horford from getting easy baskets.

But that left Humphrey, one of the nation's premier 3-point shooters, free to roam the perimeter and he quickly took advantage, hitting his first five shots from the arc as the Gators built a 24-8 lead eight minutes into the game.

"I had the shots early and I just took them," Humphrey said. "That's due to our inside guys being so good. They're responsible for me getting the shots and I was able to make them."

Humphrey had a previous career high of 25 points in a Southeastern Conference tournament win over Arkansas last season.

"Florida can really dominate with their size and the ability to get the ball inside," Odom said. "If you cover the inside, you know you're going to give up some outside shots. I'm of the opinion you've still got to make them and obviously Lee Humphrey did."

"Lee Humphrey being able to shoot as well as he did helped us a lot," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Thanks to Tre' Kelley, South Carolina fought back and pulled within 37-33 with 1:44 left in the half. Kelley scored 20 of his 24 points in the first half, often beating Humphrey to the basket.

"I was able to get a few layups and get a few jump shots," Kelley said. "I just took advantage of what they gave me."

Odom switched from a zone and had his players guard the perimeter, especially Humphrey, but Horford ended the half with two baskets inside, including a power dunk with one second left off an inbounds pass.

"Humphrey shot us out of the zone by himself," Odom said. "We were concentrating inside as much as we could and we had to change that."

The Gators then started the second half with a 27-7 run as South Carolina made just 2-of-18 shots.

Noah started the second-half run with a dunk and added two other baskets in the lane.

"In the second half, we got the ball inside, took care of it and had a number of assists," Donovan said. "Also in the second half, we just tried to get the ball out of of Tre' Kelley's hands because he shoots so well off of the dribble and is creative when he reads the defense."

Humphrey's sixth 3-pointer of the game increased the lead to 73-42 with 6:12 left. He made his seventh from the arc with 3:21 remaining and added a layup with 2:59 remaining to give Florida its biggest lead, 80-42.

The Gators shot 64 percent for the game, including 9-of-14 from 3-point range. South Carolina shot 59 percent in the first half (13-of-22), but made just 5-of-25 shots in the second half.

Horford finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Noah added 13 on 6-of-7 shooting

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