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Huge upset highlights opening night; Gators win, USF falls

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The Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes cruised to opening night wins in college basketball, but a huge upset is making news around the country. Florida overcame Navy’s stubborn defense to post a big win on the road, while Miami rolled over Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Western Illinois 69, Wisconsin 67

Wisconsin was the national runner-up in last season’s NCAA tournament, losing a close game to the champion Duke Blue Devils. But on Friday night, the Badgers fell to the Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks, 69-67.

This is the kind of upset rarely seen in basketball on opening night when power teams are looking for an opponent that can help their team get warmed up. The Leathernecks did all of that and more. Picked to finish last in the Summit League, they came away with a victory no one saw coming.

J.C. Fuller led Western Illinois with 20 points, while Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes had 17 for the Badgers.

Florida 59, Navy 41

The Gators gave first-year Coach Mike White a victory in his debut. Playing against a tough Navy defense on the road, Florida put together enough offense to get the victory.

Florida was led by forward Devin Robinson, who posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. No Navy player scored in double figures.

After taking a 29-19 lead at halftime, the Gators steadily built the lead before taking a comfortable victory. They were able to win by shooting 47 percent from the field, while holding Navy to only 29 percent.

Next up for the Gators is North Carolina A&T at the O’Connell Center on Monday night.

Miami 86, Texas Rio Grande Valley 59

The Hurricanes pulled away in the second half to defeat the Vaqueros on Friday night. Miami led by only 28-20 at half time, but eventually rolled to a big victory.

Sheldon McClellan led Miami with 18 points, while four other players scored in double figures.

Miami shot 42 percent from the field and was 10 for 31 on three-pointers. Rio Grande Valley managed to shoot 40 percent.

The Hurricanes host Louisiana on Monday night.

Troy 82, South Florida 77

If anyone feels as badly as Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan, it has to be South Florida’s Orlando Antigua. The Bulls let a 14-point lead get away and eventually fell to the Troy Trojans 82-77 at the Sun Dome.

After losing, then regaining, the lead with under 4 minutes to play, Troy went on a 9-2 run to regain control at 80-74 with less than a minute left.

Jahmal McMurray led USF with 21 points while Jordon Vernado and Jeremy Holliman each had 21 for the Trojans. Vernado had a double-double by adding 11 rebounds.

Troy’s victory was their first season-opening win on the road in their history. USF will try and put this one behind them when the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) visits the Sun Dome on Monday. NJIT defeated Michigan on the road last season.

No. 13 Michigan State 82, Florida Atlantic 55

On Friday night, the Florida Atlantic Owls had the same goal as Western Illinois: go into a Big 10 arena and come away with a win. FAU could not pull a similar upset as the one carried out by Western Illinois and fell to Michigan State 82-55.

The Spartans sprinted out to a 43-21 lead at halftime and never looked back. Michigan State saw four players score in double figures, led by Matt Costello with 15. The Owls were led by C.J. Turman with 15.

FAU could manage only 34 percent shooting for the game, while Michigan State shot 48 percent. The Owls were much more competitive in the second half, but could never get back into the game.

FAU hosts Warner in their home opener on Tuesday.

Florida International 71, Trinity Baptist 39

The Florida International Panthers rolled to an easy 71-39 victory over Trinity Baptist in their home opener. Adrian Diaz led the Panthers with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Panthers shot 51 percent from the field while holding Trinity to 25 percent. Next up for FIU is Florida Memorial at FIU arena on Monday.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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