The Florida Gators are back in the Elite Eight for the third straight year after beating this year’s March Madness Cinderella, 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, 62-50.
Florida Gulf Coast, playing with the ‘America’s Team’ tag in honor of the regional-hosting Dallas Cowboys, started the game as if they were shot out of a canon, while the Gators got off to a slow start.
The Eagles led by as many as 10 points in the first half, after starting the game on a 12-4 run before Coach Billy Donovan spent the Gators’ first timeout with 14:06 left in the half.
Down 24-14 after FGCU’s Christophe Varidel made three free throws stemming from a foul by Erik Murphy on a three-point attempt, the Gators got some life through the play of Michael Frazier.
Frazier, the SEC Freshman of the Year hit back- to-back three pointers from the baseline in front of the FGCU bench to ultimately started a 16-2 run for Gators that catapulted them into the lead at halftime. Over a seven minute stretch spanning into the second half, the Gators tolled the midnight chime on Cinderella with a 23-2 run.
Despite struggling with shooting, the Gators controlled the game by doing the little things and limiting their mistakes. Florida had astounding 10-2 offensive rebound advantage in the first half, and finished with 10 fewer turnovers, as FGCU had 19 giveways.
Defensively, Will Yeguete led the way for the Gators, as the junior Frenchman had four steals, four boards and two blocks. Mike Rosario led Florida offensively, finishing with 15 points.
The Gators will now play the Michigan Wolverines in the South Region Final, facing hotshot Trey Burke. The Michigan guard used 23 points in the second half and overtime to rally the Wolverines against No. 1 seed Kansas.
The trip to the Final Four will be on the line at 2:20 P.M. Eastern,and will be shown live and in color on CBS.