Black­s­hear Jr. lifts Ga­tors over Mi­ami

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - By Pete Ia­co­belli

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Florida coach Mike White’s not sure where his Ga­tors will end up this sea­son. He just fi­nally likes the di­rec­tion they’re headed.

Kerry Black­s­hear Jr. had 20 points and 11 re­bounds as Florida beat state ri­val Mi­ami 78-58 Friday to ad­vance to the Charleston Clas­sic cham­pi­onship.

The Ga­tors (4-2) were sixth in the pre­sea­son Top 25, but fell out af­ter losses to Florida State and UConn in their first four games. White does not be­lieve win­ning the first two games in Charleston mean the strug­gles are over, only that his team is learn­ing and im­prov­ing ev­ery time out.

“I’m not one of the­seI` told you so’ guys,” White said. “We’re still fig­ur­ing out each other. I do think we’re go­ing to be a lot bet­ter than we are now in cou­ple of months. Does that mean we’re ranked 37th? 14th? I don’t get caught up in that.”

White did en­joy what he thought was Florida’s best game of the year. Much of that was Black­s­hear, the Vir­ginia Tech grad trans­fer who now has a chance to win a se­cond straight Charleston ti­tle af­ter help­ing the Hok­ies hoist the tro­phy last Novem­ber.

He also bounced back from an aw­ful first game Thurs­day where he picked up two quick fouls and sat for most of the half be­fore get­ting ejected for a fla­grant foul early in the se­cond half.

Black­s­hear said the foul was ac­ci­den­tal, but he’s got to be smarter than that go­ing for­ward if he wants to be a leader for Florida. He’s also happy with giv­ing his lat­est team­mates a try for a ti­tle.

“It’s def­i­nitely good feel­ing,” Black­s­hear said. “Be­ing with a team that I like to be around helps me with the ad­just­ment.”

Black­s­hear scored Florida’s first eight points, and his 3-pointer later in the pe­riod closed the Ga­tors’ 20-2 run.

Still, Mi­ami (4-2) ral­lied to tie things at 45-all in the se­cond half on Chris Lykes’ high-arc­ing 3-pointer. Noah Locke, though, fol­lowed with a 3-pointer to start a 15-4 run that put Florida ahead to stay.

The Ga­tors will take on No. 18 Xavier or UConn on Sun­day night for the tour­na­ment crown.

Mi­ami, whose per­fect 8-0 record at Charleston ended, will vie against the

Xavier-UConn loser third place Sun­day.

This game had a higher in­ten­sity given the schools’ long ath­letic his­tory and po­si­tion as two of the big­gest, most suc­cess­ful pro­grams in the Sunshine State. The teams have met 69 times, but only seven of those games have come since 1990. Their last meet­ing was also an early-sea­son tour­na­ment, the Ad­vo­care In­vi­ta­tional in Or­lando, Florida, where the Ga­tors topped the Hur­ri­canes 65-56. for

UP NEXT

Mi­ami will face ei­ther No. 18 Xavier or UConn in the third-place game Sun­day night.

Florida plays for the cham­pi­onship against No. 18 Xavier or UConn to close the tour­na­ment Sun­day night.

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