Florida Gators Rosario reacts after a basket with teammate Young during the second half against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

Florida ends Florida Gulf Coast’s NCAA tournament run, by keeping ‘Dunk City’ grounded


Florida Gulf Coast ruined your bracket, but captured your heart with Dunk City. And all good things must come to an end. Toward the end of the second half the Eagles in-state foe the University of Florida began to pull away and put an end to the No. 15 seed’s historic run in a 60-52 Sweet 16 win in the South Region on Friday night at Cowboys Stadium.

Early in the first half FGCU made it look as if the Eagles had another exciting performance. However, FGCU ran into the nation’s third-ranked scoring defense. After trailing 19-9 with seven minutes to go in the half, but the Gators finally got it going offensive five minutes left in the half. Florida used a 16-0 run to take the lead it never surrendered. Michael Frazier started it with a pair of 3-pointers. The Gators ended the half outscoring ‘Dunk City’ 21-7 in the final seven minutes.

Florida gave Florida Gulf Coast a strong blow, and the Eagles couldn’t answer against a strong defensive team filled with NCAA tournament experience.

Florida opened the second half scoring five quick points in the first minute of the half, leading 35-26. At this point Florida Gulf Coast didn’t get it closer than seven points.

The Gators defense slowed down the fast-pace, high-flying FGCU offense. The Eagles ended the game with 20-0f-44 shooting, while turnover the ball over 19 times.

The Florida defense kept itself out of the highlight reel unlike Duke and San Diego State. Brett Comer, who got banged up a few times on Friday, ran the show almost to perfection in the first two tournament games with 10 and 14 assists, respectively. He was the one that turned dribbling into a Georgetown trap and throwing what looked like an ill-advised pass over his head into a dunk that made Chase Fieler a YouTube sensation. Florida was able to limit his production, and although he had seven assists he only had four points and turned the ball over nine times.

Mike Rosario had another led all scorers with 15 points, after scoring 25 points in the third round win over Minnesota. Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points. Sherwood Brown had a team-high 14 points for FGCU, Fieler chipped in 12.

Florida advances to play Michigan in the South Regional final on Sunday against Michigan after the Wolverines had a thrilling comeback capped off by Trey Burke’s three in the end of regulation.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.