Gators show versatility in victory

OMAHA, Neb. – Despite going a frigid 2-for-15 from beyond the three-point arc in the first half - and 4-for-23 on the game - the Florida Gators showed Friday afternoon they're much more than a group of long-range bombers in Friday's blowout victory over Virginia.

For 20 minutes, saying the Florida Gators couldn't hit water from a boat might be speaking too kindly of their three-point shooting.

Time after time, in the face of an aggressive Virginia Cavaliers defense, Florida athletes launched contested shots from deep - fifteen times, to be exact - and only twice did they manage to find the bottom of the net.

This is not a situation in which the Gators usually find themselves. Known for their ability to bomb away, they rank second nationally in three-pointers attempted (841), first nationally in makes (328) and are tied for 21st in percentage (39.5). They are, in short, an excellent shooting team.

Just not in the first half of their first NCAA tournament game of 2012.

"I think it was us missing shots," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said. "I think we had a lot of open looks off of fast break opportunities, wide open looks, that we just missed as a team. I think we did a magnificent job closing out, it just wasn't our night from beyond the arc."

Still, despite their woes from beyond the arc, the Gators entered halftime with a 30-22 lead, built largely on the back of ramped up defensive intensity and a taste of full-court press that baffled Virginia. And when they ran back out on the court their focus on offense was obvious:

Drive the basketball. Stop shooting threes. Take advantage of the speed and athleticism possessed by guards Bradley Beal, Boynton and Erving Walker.

It worked. The Gators guards stopped firing up guarded shots and started attacking the basket instead, knifing their way through a Cavaliers defense that ranked this season as one of the best in the country statistically, holding opponents to an average of 53.7 points per game. Only Wisconsin topped that total, by allowing opponents just 52.8 points per contest.

Friday, the Gators crushed that average, scoring 71 in a 26-point victory.

Not only did Florida put the ball on the deck in the second half, but they got star sophomore forward Patric Young involved as well. Held to just four points in the first half, he finished with 13 points and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field. Meanwhile, Beal, Boynton and Walker combined for 31, despite making just one three-pointer between them. Casey Prather went for a career-high 14, most of which came during the explosive second half.

They were balanced, shot 52.8-percent overall, and in general looked tough – really tough.

"(Head Coach Billy Donovan) just basically told us to take what the defense gives us," Boynton said. "We were 1-for-15 at halftime, so he wanted us to take better threes. He thought we took some tough ones in the first half."

The notion that they're a one-dimensional team that relies solely on the three-ball is a misnomer, Young said, though he doesn't mind if they continue to hold that perception.

"I hope teams keep thinking that," he said. "We've shown we can do more than just shoot threes. That's what Coach Donovan has been telling us all year. That we're more than just a three-point shooting team. We have balance and so much scoring (ability)."

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