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Jackson St overwhelmed in opener at No. 8 Florida

Florida's Erving Walker (11) goes through Jackson State's Jamariou Sykes (34) as he goes for the basket against Jackson State's Derrell Taylor (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. Florida's Erving Walker (11) goes through Jackson State's Jamariou Sykes (34) as he goes for the basket against Jackson State's Derrell Taylor (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
By Mark Long
AP Sports Writer / November 11, 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla.—When Jackson State coach Tevester Anderson fills out his next ballot for the coaches' poll, he knows one team that's going to be near the top: Florida.

Anderson was clearly impressed with the eighth-ranked Gators during Friday night's season opener.

Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton scored 19 points apiece and Florida handled Jackson State, 99-59.

"I have a vote in the Top 25 coaches' poll, and I'm going to vote them higher than what they are right now," Anderson said. "They are a much better basketball team than we voted them in the initial vote. ... They are a solid team in every facet."

Jenirro Bush led the Tigers with 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting. He was 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Kelsey Howard added 14.

It wasn't nearly enough.

The Gators were bigger, faster, stronger and simply better at every position. That's why Jackson State got $80,000 to play in Gainesville. Nonetheless, this one was more of a mismatch than anyone expected.

Florida built a 30-point lead midway through the first half and started the second half with a 15-0 run that turned a lopsided game into a laugher. The rout surely gave the Gators extra confidence heading into Tuesday night's game at No. 3 Ohio State.

It also showed Anderson that his inexperienced team, picked to finish third in the Southwest Athletic Conference, has a ways to go.

"I think (Florida) shot the ball continually from behind the 3-point line and they can play," he said. "I know this is our first game and we have a young team. They have a much more experienced team and their players played well tonight."

Jackson State, which went 17-15 last season and finished second in the league, has one returning starter, Bush.

The Tigers had their problems exposed, especially with 24 turnovers -- 16 of them in the first half. Florida stopped pressing after the break.

Jackson State also had no answer for Rosario, Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal.

Rosario averaged 16.7 points a game for Rutgers in the 2009-10 season. He transferred to Florida and had to sit out last season.

"It's been a long, bumpy road for me, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world," Rosario said. "I wouldn't take back the whole year I sat out. I would trade It for nothing because I'm around a great group of guys and I feel like we have a great, great goal to accomplish this year."

Rosario finished 7 of 12 from the floor and 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Beal added 14 in an off shooting night. Sophomore Patric Young had the first double-double of his career, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Erving Walker chipped in 10 points.

The Gators had little go wrong in the opener.

Much of Florida's success came off turnovers and from behind the 3-point line. The Gators scored 37 points off 24 turnovers and made 13 of 30 shots from behind the arc.

Rosario led the way from long range.

"He can really shoot," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Mike shot the ball very, very well from behind the line. ... When the floor's spaced like it is, there's so much shooting out there. Mike just happened to be on the receiving end of knocking down a lot of shots."

Florida made seven of its first nine shots and never looked back.

The Gators should get a much tougher test against the Buckeyes.

"I've been through the best of the best in the Big East," Rosario said. "For us to have our second game of the season against Ohio State, and me coming back this year to play, it means a lot because now you get to really, really compete against the best of the best and I'm looking forward to it."

Jackson State faces Ohio State next Friday.

Donovan expects to find out more about his team against the Buckeyes.

"It's one of those games where things you've got to get better are going to get exposed," he said. "We're going to have to address something coming out of that game. Something's going to get exposed that we're going to have to look at and you guys will ask me, `Is that going to be a problem for the whole entire year?'

"Really good teams expose things that you have to get better at."