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Tuesday March 25, 2008Men's Basketball New York Bound With 70-57 NIT Quarterfinal Win At Arizona State

TEMPE, Ariz.

Junior guard Walter Hodge (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) scored 18 points, including several late baskets, to help lead the second-seeded University of Florida menís basketball team to a convincing 70-57 win at Arizona State in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Florida (24-11) advances to the NIT semifinals versus Massachusetts to be played at Madison Square Garden in New York on Tuesday, April 1. The Minute Men were an 81-77 winner at Syracuse in the other quarterfinal on Tuesday. The semifinal contest will be played at either 7 or 9 p.m. ET and televised by ESPN 2. The two other quarterfinal matchups are slated for Wednesday.

The Gators will be making their third appearance in the NIT semifinals and first since 1992. Florida is seeking its third straight postseason championship and first ever NIT title.

Hodge led all scorers and was among five UF players in double-figures on Tuesday night. The junior was 6-of-10 from the field and knocked down 4-of-8 from behind the arc. Florida buried 12 of its 25 3-point attempts and finished at a season-high 61 percent from the field. Twenty-three of the Gatorsí 26 field goals came via an assist.

Freshman forward Chandler Parsons (Casselberry, Fla.) provided an inspiring effort off the bench with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Parsons buried two of his five 3-pointers that quieted a late Sun Devil run.

Fellow freshman guard Nick Calathes (Casselberry, Fla.) chipped in 11 points and had nine assists, and sophomore center Marreese Speights (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and sophomore forward Dan Werner (Middletown, N.J.) contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively.

The Gators ran out to a 17-3 lead to start the game and exploited Arizona Stateís matchup zone. Hodge keyed the run with two of the Gatorsí four 3-pointers during that flurry. UF shot 61.9 percent from the floor in the first half and 46.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Arizona State (21-13) went on an 8-2 run midway through the half and whittled the lead to 35-29 at halftime. Guard Jerren Shipp later brought the 12,306 fans in attendance to their feet on a 3-pointer that capped a Sun Devil run and gave ASU its first lead at 50-48 with 13:30 to play.

The slim advantage was quickly answered when Calathes buried a 3-pointer of his own on the ensuing possession. UF then responded with a 15-6 run and put the game away on three consecutive successful possessions. Hodge connected on a driving shot through the lane, and Speights knocked down a turnaround jumper off an ASU miss. Parsons put the game away with another clutch three with 2:32 to play.

Floridaís backcourt of Hodge and Calathes combined for 20 assists, while Speights pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. For Hodge, his 11 assists bested his career-high by four.

Arizona State was led in scoring by James Harden with 18. Jeff Pendegraph added 14 points and three rebounds.


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