Florida ready, focused on Norfolk State

After a crazy Friday of March Madness that saw a pair of two-seeds upset by 15s, the Florida Gators are taking nothing for granted - least of all their next opponent. The Norfolk State Spartans' improbable upset of Missouri has earned them the Gators' full attention, and a renewed understanding that in March anything can happen.

While watching the Missouri versus Norfolk State game unfold Friday afternoon, Kenny Boynton wasn't so different from the rest of the viewers without a rooting interest in the outcome.

As the game came down to the wire, he kept expecting Missouri to make a move. The Tigers were too good, too talented, and while Norfolk State was proving to be a far tougher challenge than anyone had anticipated, that the Spartans would win just ultimately seemed too improbable.

Every time Missouri would build a small lead, however, Norfolk State would hit a big shot to keep it close. Forcing a turnover here, getting a traditional three-point play there, scrapping for loose balls. They were in it to win it.

So by the time Missouri guard Phil Pressey's final three-point attempt clanged off the iron and the buzzer sounded throughout CenturyLink Center, Boynton was no longer surprised by the outcome.

"They did a great job of closing out that game," the Gators junior guard said. "They did the small things that they needed to do to win that game."

In a day that brought out the hardcore crazy always lying just beneath the surface during March Madness, the Spartans were one of two 15-seeds to upset their region's No. 2. Later in the day, the college basketball was rocked by a second, equally improbable upset, when Lehigh toppled Duke.

It's safe to say Norfolk State has the full attention of everyone on the Florida team - and the Gators aren't viewing them as underdogs in the slightest.

"Watching the game yesterday, it just was the better team won," said junior guard Mike Rosario. "A lot of people hung their hats on Missouri because they're so talented and the season that they had. But it shows you that any given night anything can happen, and I thought Norfolk was the better team last night."

"Especially this time of year in the tournament, you've just gotta be ready every game," added junior forward Erik Murphy. "Anything can happen. Really the way I look at it is the 68 teams who deserve to be here are here. So I don't really look at the seeds. It's just your next opponent on a day to day basis."

The driving force behind the Spartans' upset Friday afternoon was the play of senior center Kyle O'Quinn. At 6-foot-10 and 240-pounds, the Jamaica, N.Y. native was simply too much for the Tigers to handle inside, scoring a game-high 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

Though they also got 20-point efforts from guard Pendarvis Williams and small forward Chris McEachin, stopping O'Quinn will likely be the primary key to a Florida victory.

That's where sophomore forward Patric Young comes in, who has the size and physical strength to match-up well with him down low.

"We were watching the game yesterday, and I thought he dominated yesterday on the glass," Young said. "Then when I finally got a chance to see him in film I got to see how skilled and talented he is as well, and he's a good defender, really physical. He overpowers guys he goes up against and it's going to be a good match-up."

Still, the players know they'll be prepared, touching on what the Spartans like to do Saturday but also understanding the importance of playing their game - and bringing the same level of defensive intensity they brought to Friday's victory over Virginia.

"We try to pick up as much stuff on them as we can, but we always try to go out and play our game," Murphy said. "Coach (Billy Donovan) will put together a game plan and we'll try to execute as best we can."


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