Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
AT THE BUZZER
FLORIDA 68, DAYTON 58
WHAT HAPPENED: The nation’s No. 1-ranked team and top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament came as advertised Saturday, using a late run in the first half to open up a lead and rolling to victory in the South Region championship game at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., that locked up a trip to the Final Four. Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin tied his career high with 23 points, 14 coming in the first half when he helped push his team out to a 14-point lead on the 11th-seeded and underdog Flyers at the break. Dayton got as close as eight after intermission, but the Florida defense tightened and UF hit enough shots and free throws to finish the game out. Senior center Patric Young had 12 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Michael Frazier added 10.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Gators, winners of a stunning 30 in a row, are in the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and fourth time under Coach Billy Donovan. UF (36-2) will face the winner of Sunday’s East Region title game between fourth-seeded Michigan State (29-8) or seventh-seeded Connecticut (29-8), which was the last team to beat Florida, winning on a buzzer-beating second-chance jumper by point guard Shabazz Napier back on Dec. 2.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Of Wilbekin’s 14 points in the first half, 11 came in the final 6:43, including a knifing swish from the top of the key as the halftime horn sounded. When the Flyers had one last flurry to draw within 10, again it was Wilbekin, this time with a 3-pointer with six minutes to play. He also hit five of six free throws in the final 1:05 to close the game out.
STAGGERING STATISTICS: The Gators came into the game shooting 66.5 percent from the free-throw line for the season. In this game, they went 21-for-28, good for 75 percent, with some timely makes while the Flyers -- who shot just eight free throws for the game -- were trying to claw back into things. Meanwhile, the UF defense may have yielded 44.4 percent from the 3-point line, but the Flyers shot just 39.6 percent overall and leading scorer Jordan Siebert, who was averaging 12.5 points, finished with zero.
SUBPLOT: Florida’s remarkable senior class rolls on. The quartet of Wilbekin, Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather won for the 119th time together, extending their school record, and at last will get a chance to take the court in a Final Four.