Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Gators Sweet-16 bound after demolishing Cavs

The Florida Gators (26-8) are heading to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet-16 after blowing out the Virginia Cavaliers (23-11) by an eye popping 65-39 score. It was the lowest NCAA Tournament scoring output in Cavs’ coach Tony Bennett’s tenure at the school.

After eight minutes of back-and forth by the two teams, the Gators were behind 13-11 at the 11:44 mark of the first half. The Gators went on a 20-4 run to finish the half with a 31-17 lead and never looked back.

The big turning point seemed to come when freshman Gorjok Gak entered the game to give starting center Kevarrius Hayes a breather. Gak immediately hauled in an offensive rebound, he helped with a couple team rebounds and then had a dunk in the first two minutes he was in the game, sparing the Gators on the big run. Gak would finish the game with six points and a couple of rebounds in his 10 minutes on the court, but his length was huge when in the game keeping the Cavs offense at bay.

Virginia finished shooting a paltry 29.6% from the field and just 6.7% from behind the arc, hitting on just 1-of-15 shots from the three-point line.

The Gator defense was just that good. Every shot was defended. The ball was hardly able to get inside. Hands were everywhere, it was enough for the lowest scoring output of the year and in head coach Tony Bennett’s career in ters of NCAA Tournament games.

Meanwhile, Florida hit its stride after the going ahead with a little more than half the time gone in the first half. Florida’s starters and bench would each outscore Virginia’s starters and their bench. The Gators starting quintet of Kasey Hill, Kevaughn Allen, Devin Robinson, Justin Leon, and Kevarrius Hayes accounted for 42 points, the bench accounted for 23.  The Cavs’ starters totaled 20 and bench added 19 in the contest.

Florida junior forward Devin Robinson continued his hot play in the tournament so far. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds doing his damage from long distance (2-4 from three) and under the basket. He along with senior forward Justin Leon were the high scorers for the game with their 14 and Leon also had a double-double as well hauling in 10 rebounds. Leon was 3-6 from three-point land.

While the Cavaliers didn’t have a single player in double-digits, Leon and Robinson were the only two for the Gators.

Outside of shooting percentage, most of the statistics were pretty even. Florida did outrebound Virginia 36 to 32, Florida had 10 assists to 8 for Virginia, and the Gators turned the ball over 10 times to the Cavs 11.

Florida was balanced on offense with all nine players that entered the game before the final two minutes scoring points. Chris Chiozza had an excellent all-around game with 7 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in his 28 minutes on the court.

The Gators are now 2-0 in the 2017 NCAA Tournament without their top scorer really doing much. Sophomore KeVaughn Allen is a First Team All-SEC guard, but has scored seven points and four points respectively in the two games. He has made just three baskets in two games. To think that Florida is winning the way they are without Allen going off, is a good sign.

The Gators will now face 8-Seed Wisconsin on March 24 (time TBA) as the Badgers were the big 65-62 upset winners over Top-Seed Villanova Saturday.

The Good: Have to give the big hand to Gak. He came in and was an instant impact. For a guy that has had so much time away and really isn’t the most physical player inside, he made a big difference with his length and helped the Gators in both games so far.  Devin Robinson was also good… again. He has been hot in both games, playing with confidence and going inside or outside for his points. It was good to see Justin Leon do his thing as well. Never an issue with effort, Leon gets set back sometimes with foul trouble. We were well within in the second half of the first half before the Gators were called for a single foul and Leon was able to stay on the court for 25 minutes and have his big night. It is always good when he can get going, because he is such a warhorse on defense.

The Bad: The only thing I have on Florida’s side is Allen not showing up on offense again. He still needs to keep shooting it.

The Ugly: I got nothing for Florida. For The Cavs, it is the woeful shooting. 1-of-15 from three is going to get you beat, but 29% overall is going to get you blown out.

 


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