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March 22, 2014

Instant Analysis: Florida advances to Sweet 16



The (1) Florida Gators (34-3) likely turned a lot of sudden doubters back into believers on Saturday when they upended the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. Florida topped Pittsburgh 61-45, outscoring the lower seed 34-23 in the second half on the way to UF's fourth Sweet 16 appearance in as many seasons.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Already leading by 10 with about 90 seconds left to play, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drove to the hoop and netted an up-and-under layup to push the Gators ahead by 12 points. The layup was the last of eight-straight points Wilbekin scored for UF late in the second half. At one point, he was responsible for 13-of-15 Gators points in a span of 6:51.

HE STOLE THE SHOW: Wilbekin started slow on Saturday but came alive in the second half, scoring a team-high 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting with three boards, two assists and two steals. He made 3-of-7 triples and scored 13 points in the second half as the only Florida player to post double digits on the afternoon...until sophomore guard Michael Frazier II made a bucket with 41 seconds left to play to boost his total to 10.

THIS STAT DOESN'T LIE: The rebounding battle was an important one for the Gators to win, and Florida did just that with a margin of 38-31. The Gators outrebounded the Panthers 14-10 on the offensive glass and were absolutely dominant in the post despite senior center Patric Young only finishing 3-for-11 from the field. Young did, however, grab six offensive rebounds for UF.

WHAT A PLAY: With just 3.5 seconds left before halftime, Wilbekin caught an inbounds pass at halfcourt and dribbled right to the top of the three-point line, lifting and draining a buzzer-beating, floating three-pointer that pushed the Gators ahead by five points at the break. Wilbekin led Florida with eight points at the half.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite struggling more than many would have expected against Albany, Florida got back to basics on Saturday using defense and efficient offensive play to pull away from Pittsburgh in the second half. The Gators had plenty of doubters entering the game but got back to proving why they were the No. 1 overall seed in the nation entering the tournament.

UP NEXT: Florida advanced to its fourth-straight Sweet 16 and will take on the winner of (4) UCLA and (12) Stephen F. Austin on Thursday at a yet-to-be-determined time.


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