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NIT semifinal: UMass 78, Florida 66

NEW YORK -- Well, that's all, folks. Florida was too young, too small and too slow to beat Massachusetts. Florida shot 30 percent from the free-throw line. Yeah, it was ugly.

SECOND HALF RUNNING
Calathes breaks the record with 17:17 left in the second. He's got eight points on the night and two in the second half. Florida leads 42-35. Speights has just as many rebounds, 14, as all of UMass' bigs combined.

Billy Donovan goes with a bigger line-up for the second half, sitting Jai Lucas in favor of Chandler Parsons. Lucas has three fouls. Lucas enters the game with 17:41 left after a sloppy start. Speights (13 points and 13 rebounds) is carrying the team.

HALFTIME NOTE (One, that's all you get.)
Nick Calathes tied Florida's all-time freshman scoring record (546), set by Ronnie Williams 27 years ago, with six points in the first half.

FIRST HALF BELOW
Adam Allen is playing strong. He strokes a three-pointer and on the next possession drives to the hoop and gets fouled trying to dunk. He converts one of two free throws to give Florida 36-27 lead.

Jai Lucas picks up his third foul with 3:19 left. Calathes back in and Lucas out. This could be a problem.

It's been sloppy for the last four mintues but Florida has managed to increase its lead to 28-21. Florida dance team on the court now. Distracted... and that's all I got. Marreese Speights is having a great first half. (eight points and eight rebounds).

TV timeout here with 7:52 left. Florida is up 24-19 after a quick run, highlighted by a three-pointer from Dan Werner. Werner's entire family is in the crowd. His brother, Ron Werner, and five of his friends painted their chests for the occasion. On their collective chest spells: W-E-R-N-E-R. On the back: G-A-T-O-R-S.

Same story 10 minutes in. UMass is the stronger team; Florida is a quicker team. It's an even push with 11:12 left, tied 19-all. Nick Calathes leads Florida with six points but just picked up his second foul with 9:42 left.

Florida looks to be getting pushed around a little bit early on by the elder Minutemen. Seniors Etienne Bower, Dante Milligan and Gary Forbes are each physically stronger than every player on Florida's roster. Despite that, Florida has a 13-12 lead with 15:14 to go after Walter Hodge made one of two free throws.

BEFORE THE TIP
A pretty quaint crowd in Madison Square Garden for Florida's NIT semifinal. It's less than half full. Still, it's a pretty spirited bunch right now, before the game. Dan Werner, the Jersey boy, bot a big cheer from the Florida fans.

Looks like UMass fans out number Florida fans by more than 2-to-1. Sitting behind me is Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy. If Spike Lee were here, he apparently would be sitting right behind me.

-jo-

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