Donnell Harvey's rebound basket with 1 minute 16 seconds left gave No. 6 Florida the lead to stay and Major Parker's block of a three-point attempt with six seconds left sealed the Gators' 60-58 victory over Utah State yesterday in the opening round of the Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii.
The Gators (2-0) will play No. 22 Purdue, a 96-78 winner over Chaminade, in today's semifinals.
Also, freshman Joseph Forte had an impressive collegiate debut with 24 points and his senior backcourt mate, Ed Cota, came up big in the second half for No. 4 North Carolina, which beat Southern California, 82-65.
Forte, an All-Met from DeMatha High wearing the uniform number that sounds like his name, was 9 for 12 from the field, including 4 for 4 from three-point range. Cota finished with 15 points, was 6 for 7 shooting and had 10 assists as he made sure that every time the Trojans (1-1) started a run in the second half the momentum went right back to the Tar Heels.
North Carolina will face Georgetown in tonight's semifinals.
Florida struggled with its three-point shooting in the second half and Utah State (1-1), which had one starter back from last season, held tough in the game that had seven lead changes in the final 4 1/2 minutes.
Bernard Rock's only three-pointer of the game gave the Aggies a 58-57 lead with 1:37 left. Florida's Mike Miller missed a three-point attempt on the next possession, but Harvey put back the rebound and the Gators had the lead for good.
Rock missed a long layup on Utah State's next possession, but Florida missed on two scoring opportunities as Brett Nelson missed on a drive and Miller's long jumper as the 35-second shot clock expired missed.
Utah State called a timeout with 16 seconds left and the Aggies worked the ball to Troy Rolle on the left side but Parker came out and blocked the shot.
For Purdue, senior forward Brian Cardinal matched his career high with five three-pointers, scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Boilermakers. Purdue (1-0) had all five starters score in double figures.
The Boilermakers, who led 44-38 at halftime, opened the second half with a 20-6 run to take a 64-44 lead with 14:54 left. Chaminade never got closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
Chaminade (0-1), the Division II host school for the eight-team tournament, saw its record in the 16 years of the tournament fall to 3-41. Kenzie Weir led the Silverswords with 22 points.
U-CONN. 79, U-MASS. 65: Khalid El-Amin scored 18 points and Edmund Saunders had 10 rebounds as the No. 7 Huskies held off the visiting Minutemen (1-1). Massachusetts fell victim to poor shooting (33 percent) and Connecticut's dominating inside game. The Huskies (3-1) have won 17 of the last 18 meetings with U-Mass. and lead the series 64-38.
MICHIGAN ST. 78, TOLEDO 33: Morris Peterson had 19 points and 10 rebounds as the No. 3 Spartans opened their season at home. Greg Stempin scored 16 points for Toledo (1-1). The Spartans (33-5 last season) became the only one of last season's Final Four teams to open with a victory; Duke, Connecticut and Ohio State lost their openers.
SYRACUSE 105, FLA. ATLANTIC 79: Etan Thomas, who missed the first two games of the season with a staph infection, returned to the Orangemen lineup with 24 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocks as No. 14 Syracuse won at home. The senior center matched his school record for blocks.
ILLINOIS 72, BRADLEY 62: Cory Bradford scored 22 points to lead the No. 15 Illini (2-0) on the road.
TENNESSEE 95, ELON 56: Vincent Yarbrough scored 19 points and the No. 17 Volunteers broke open a close game with a second-half burst at home.