Monday, April 23, 2018
Sports

Gators roll Pittsburgh, advance to NCAA Sweet 16

ORLANDO — After Florida struggled in its NCAA opening-round game, coach Billy Donovan challenged his Gators to go back and remember who they had been all season.

They accepted that challenge, and the 48 hours of introspection worked out well.

South Region No. 1 seed Florida relied on a stifling defense that created 11 turnovers, and a game-high 21 points from senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, for a 61-45 win over No. 9 Pittsburgh in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center on Saturday.

The Gators (34-2) have won 28 consecutive games and advance to their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 this week in Memphis.

"I was really, really proud of the way these guys came out and responded from our game on Thursday," Donovan said. "I thought our defense in particular, both halves it was good, but I thought in the second half it was really, really good."

After taking a five-point halftime lead on Wilbekin's running 3-pointer at the buzzer, Florida led by as many as 14 in the second half.

The Panthers wouldn't go away without a fight, going on a 10-4 run to pull within eight with 5:33 left.

Then Wilbekin took over. The SEC player of the year scored 13 of 15 by the Gators, including eight consecutive, to help Florida pull away for good.

"I would say it just happened," said Wilbekin, who shot 60 percent from the field and went over 900 points for his career. "Our offense isn't really designed for one player to do something. I think we did a good job of having good spacing."

Florida held Pitt to 37 percent from the field (19-of-51) — the third straight game an opponent has shot less than 40 percent — and 4-of-17 from 3-point range.

Florida held an opponent to 50 points or fewer for the fourth time in the past seven games.

"We played great defense, and that was a huge challenge that the coaches gave us coming into the game," sophomore guard and Tampa native Michael Frazier said.

Pittsburgh guard Cameron Wright entered with 29 double-figure games but didn't score his first basket until 9:29 remained, part of a run in which he scored seven of Pitt's nine. Center Talib Zanna was held to 10 points and six rebounds. Pitt's turnovers led to 16 points for the Gators, and Florida outscored the Panthers 36-24 in the paint.

"They're obviously a very good team, and the most physical team we've played all year long," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They beat us on the glass and beat us to loose balls, and we've got to give them credit."

UF led 27-22 at halftime, the fewest points it had allowed in the first half since it held Texas A&M to 17 on Feb. 1.

"I enjoy that we're here, that we have the opportunity to continue to play, but I'm not going to be happy or satisfied until we reach our goal," senior center Patric Young said.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Single-game tickets for the Lightning's Eastern Conference semifinal series go on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. Monday at nhl.com/lightning/tickets.The Lightning plays the winner of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series. Game 6 of that series is Monda...
Updated: 1 hour ago
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

ST. PETERSBURG — Good pitching and hitting go hand in glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jimmy Butler leads Timberwolves against team he loved

Jimmy Butler leads Timberwolves against team he loved

MINNEAPOLIS — All-Star forward Jimmy Butler comes across as the proudest former resident in the history of tiny Tomball, Texas. What he doesn't advertise in his Twitter biography, but also doesn't dispute, is that he grew up dreaming of becomin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

–Yonny Chirinos may be the Rays fourth starter, but it seems to be in name only. He was lifted after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Twin on Sunday, the shortest start of his career and his second-shortest appearance.  "Going into the g...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosIndyCar: Grand Prix of AlabamanoonNBCSNBaseballAutosIndyCar: Grand Prix of AlabamanoonNBCSNTwins at Yankees7 p.m.ESPNMarlins at Dodgers10 p.m.FSFCollege softballTennessee at Alabama7 p.m.SECLouisville at Florida State7 p.m.ESPNUNBA playoffs...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG — With every swing, there is a chance Carlos Gomez is going to do something extraordinary with the baseball bat.He may swing so violently that he spins himself into the ground as if he were an oil drill. Or, you could see him sna...
Updated: 4 hours ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Class 8A-4 at Strawberry Crest Tuesday: No. 1 Wharton vs. No. 4 Wiregr...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Updated: 10 hours ago