Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Florida Gators rout Norfolk State in NCAA Tournament; Marquette next

OMAHA, Neb. — When the NCAA selection show concluded last week, much of the talk around Florida centered on whether the Gators had been given a raw deal with a No. 7 seed, and the difficult task of advancing out of the first weekend with No. 2 Missouri in the same region.

One week later, the Gators have survived, advanced and are on their way to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.

Florida outplayed 15th-seeded Norfolk State from the start Sunday on the way to an 84-50 victory in the West Region third-round game.

The Gators (25-10) play No. 3 seed Marquette (27-7) on Thursday in Phoenix after winning their first two games of the tournament by a combined 155-95.

Trailing 6-4, Florida guard Kenny Boynton hit his first 3-pointer in the past three games, which started a 25-0 run that Norfolk, which had upset Missouri on Friday, never recovered from.

The goal? Take the Spartans out of the game quickly.

"All our really bad losses this year were when we let teams that weren't as talented as us, we let them hang into the game," UF center Patric Young said. "When you allow luck to come into play, anything can happen. We just had to go out from the gate and let them know that we're not here to play around, we're not going to underestimate you at all, we're going to take you seriously."

The 34-point win is UF's second-largest in the tournament, behind a 43-point victory over Jackson State in 2007.

Against Missouri, Norfolk State shot 54.2 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from 3-point range, but the Gators held the Spartans to 27.3 and 16.7 percent, respectively. Senior center Kyle O'Quinn, who had 26 points Friday night, was held to four points and four rebounds after early foul trouble.

"The ball didn't go in the hoop as smoothly as it did (Friday against Missouri)," O'Quinn said. "That's always frustrating. When your season is on the line and your college career is on the line, it gets frustrating. That's what it did (Sunday)."

Florida's major concern was Norfolk's size — every starter is at least 6 feet 5. But Florida outrebounded the Spartans 48-31, outscored them inside the paint by 10 and had eight more second-chance points. It was the largest rebounding margin of the season for the Gators.

"The two ways they beat Missouri was rebounding and getting loose balls," said Boynton who had 20 points and eight rebounds. "It was a focus on everyone boxing out and going in and getting rebounds."

The Gators, who had shot less than 34 percent from 3-point range in five of their previous six games, shot 35 percent, including 7-of-10 in the first half. The Gators got 19 points from their bench, including forward Casey Prather who earlier in the day had a 101-degree temperature and flulike symptoms.

"It was a great win," coach Billy Donovan said. "I was proud of the effort these guys put in over the last 24 hours."

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