The Battle of Florida was won by the Gators.
Florida shifted gears to a slowdown game, slowing down the high-flying offense of the Gulf Coast Eagles under Andy Enfield to win a trip to the Elite 8 with a 62-50 triumph.
FGCU raced out to an 11 point lead in the first, until Florida stormed back to tie the game with 2:43 to go, and take a lead on a Mike Rosario three pointer. The Gators would take an eight point lead on a 16-2 run, before the Eagles closed to go into the half with a mere 4 point deficit.
The Eagles shot an unbelievable 56% in the first, to Florida’s 35.5%.
Florida got back into the game by hitting the offensive glass. In the first, Florida had taken 15 more shots than FGCU. On one key possession, Florida had four offensive rebounds.
Turnovers also hurt the Eagles; they committed 13 in the first half alone. Florida had 8 steals in the first half.
The second half was all Gators, as they extended to a 12 point lead on the strength of stifling defense. For the game, FGCU turned the ball over 20 times to Florida’s 10, as Florida slowed down the game to a half-court grind, finally grounding Dunk City.
A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Bernard Thompson fouled out with 2:46 to go, allowing Florida to extend its lead and close out the game. Florida entered the double bonus as the smaller Gulf Coast Eagles had to foul to extend the game.
For the game, Florida won despite being outshot 45.5%-38.6% by the Eagles. Both teams shot under 60% from the free throw line for most of the game, well below their season averages.
The Gators will advance to play the Michigan Wolverines in the Regional Final Sunday.