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Florida trounces Temple, 86-69

SUNRISE, Fla. - Defense! was the rallying cry of the Temple basketball team this preseason.



was the rallying cry of the Temple basketball team this preseason.

With one game remaining before the Atlantic Ten Conference season begins, there's some question whether the Owls' words have turned into action.

Tonight, Temple was nearly defenseless in an 86-69 loss to Florida in the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic at the Bank Atlantic Center. Winthrop won the first game, beating No. 19 Miami, 76-70.

The two-time defending NCAA champions, who feature a new cast of shooting stars, converted 61 percent of their field-goal attempts in running away from Dionte Christmas and the Owls.

Christmas almost single-handedly kept it close, matching his season high with 32 points. But no one else reached double figures for Temple. The Gators, meanwhile, had five players who scored in double digits.

"You're hoping that they all don't get into a rhythm," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said when asked how to plan against a team that always has five capable scorers on the floor. "They're all really good basketball players, so I don't think you can say to yourself, 'We'll stop one part of their offense.' "

In the first half, the Owls (6-6) had the hardest time stopping Florida center Marreese Speights, who finished with a team-high 20 points. Speights was a bit player on last year's title team with fellow returnees Dan Werner and Walter Hodge. Five of the six other players who see regular action for coach Billy Donovan are freshmen.

"That's a really good team, even though they're young and inexperienced," Christmas said. "It's tough to beat a team when they're coming out hitting shots like that."

Needing to keep pace with the Gators (12-2), the Owls fell into an early hole when they scored two points in a seven-minute stretch. Midway through the first half, Florida had a 22-12 lead.

With Christmas leading the charge, Temple cut the deficit to 37-34 at halftime. But the Gators opened the second half with two quick baskets and hit 6 of 7 shots to regain control.

"We've obviously got to get better as a team defensively," Dunphy said. "We've got a couple of guys that are not as understanding of what we're trying to do defensively."

One bright spot was the contribution of junior guard Semaj Inge (six points, three assists, two steals), who has pretty much been nailed to the bench since Temple's early-season meltdown against Charleston.

"Semaj did what he needed to do," Dunphy said. "Hopefully, he'll build on that."