BY: John Mamola
The Florida Gators are headed to Memphis after their 28th straight win and sealing up a date in the sweet sixteen with a 61-45 win over #9 seed Pittsburgh. The Gators will pack up their belongings in Orlando and now head to play the winner of the UCLA Stephen F. Austin match up which takes place Sunday afternoon.
Billy Donovan leads his Gators into the round of sixteen for the fourth year in a row after the strong defense of Florida proved too much for a Pittsburgh offense which blew out Colorado in the first round of the tournament. Both the Gators and Panthers came into this game considered two of the top defenses remaining in the tournament, and the outcome proved exactly that.
The game was back and forth for the first fifteen minutes of the game which featured ten lead changes and suffocating defense by both clubs. The Gators were able to climb out to a minor lead at the end of the first half as Scottie Wilbekin hit a buzzer beating three pointer to put the Gators up 27-22. That was the largest lead of the game till that point, but Florida turned up the heat on both sides of the ball in the second half.
SEC player of the year Scottie Wilbekin scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half as the Gators launched out to a 7-2 run to begin the half and never looked back. The Gators led by as much as 16 points and held Pitt to 37% shooting and forcing 11 turnovers. Pittsburgh was held to 45 point in the game when they scored 46 in the first half in their first round match up against Colorado.
Michael Frazier scored 10 points and Patric Young added 7 points in the game although he struggled shooting the entire game 3-11 from the field. Young added 8 rebounds and the Gators outrebounded the Panthers 38-31 including 14 on the offensive glass.
The Gators only had 6 turnovers including one in the second half in the closing seconds on a shot clock violation.
The Gators will advance to play either UCLA or Stephen A. Austin on Thursday in Memphis. The time of the game will be determined by the NCAA on Sunday afternoon.