No. 5 Florida Holds Off Tulane

TULANEGREENWAVE.COM Tulane guard Brandon Spann (2) passes the ball around Florida guard Brett Nelson (10) during the first half.
Tulane guard Brandon Spann (2) passes the ball around Florida guard Brett Nelson (10) during the first half.
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Junior Linton Johnson (Chicago, Ill.) scored a career-high 22 points, but it was not enough for Tulane University as No. 5 Florida earned a 103-85 victory in game one of the Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic at the New Orleans Arena.

Johnson posted an impressive stat line, in addition to his 22 points, he tallied 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. Sophomore Brandon Spann (New Orleans, La.) added 20 points, while senior Ledaryl Billingsley (Chicago, Ill.) scored 17 points with seven rebounds. Freshman Ivan Pjevcevik (Belgrade, Yugoslavia) added a career-high nine points.

"Our goal is to come out and play hard every game," Tulane head coach Shawn Finney said. "We play aggressive. We play with our heads up and we play every game to win. Our guys represent Tulane Basketball and the University well."

Tulane (5-5) fell behind by 23 points at 77-54 with 12:31 to go in the game. However, Tulane rallied behind the three-point shot. Pjevcevik nailed three treys and freshman Wayne Tinsley (Fontana, Calif.) added his first three-pointer of the season to key a 20-9 run which made it 86-74 with 7:22 remaining.

"I was happy with our conditioning," Finney said. "We made threes late in the game and made some tough shots down the stretch. Conditioning is a big key for us. They are so good offensively. They have a great team. They have great shooters. When you have offensive weapons like they do, it seems someone came up and made shots for them at the end."

Florida (9-1) responded with more three-pointers of its own (the Gators hit 13 in the game), pushing the margin back to 18 at 94-76. However, a three-point play by Tinsley, a layup from Billingsley and a jumper by Johnson made it a 12-point game once again at 95-83 with 3:38 to go.

But again, Florida answered, closing the game with an 8-2 run.

"They defended our spurts well," Spann said. "They are definitely a good team, but we came to play hard and never gave up."

Tulane shot a season-high 58.2 percent from the field, but was victimized by 25 turnovers against the Florida press. The Gators had just 11 turnovers while also burying 22-of-25 free throws. Tulane held a 38-28 advantage on the boards.

Florida was led by Teddy Dupay, who scored a career-high 28 points, including seven three-pointers. Brent Wright added 20 points in the win.

The Green Wave is back in action on Saturday evening, hosting Southern University at the New Orleans Arena. The game time has been moved from 7 to 8 p.m. to accomodate Saints fans attending their 3 p.m. playoff game. Any fan presenting a Saints playoff ticket stub will receive half-price admission to the Tulane game.