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No. 1 Florida gets over the hump, but there’s a hunger for more

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Reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament is an achievement that’s to be commended. Given the nature of one-and-done tournaments, numerous teams with designs on winning a national title have fallen short of that accomplishment much less get to the Final Four. Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators had reached the Elite Eight four years in a row entering Saturday’s game against No. 11 Dayton, only to see their first three experiences end in heartbreak.

Faced with an opponent that while feisty, many expected them to beat, Florida had some external pressure to deal with. But that doesn’t compare to the internal hopes and expectations they placed on themselves, with a talented senior class looking to leave its mark by helping Donovan win his third national title.

And one of those seniors, point guard Scottie Wilbekin, has been the player asked to lead the way after what was a tumultuous offseason. Suspended from the program for the second time in his career, there were questions as to whether or not Wilbekin would be able to do enough off the court to ensure that his coach would entrust him with the task of leading the Gators on the court.

RELATED: No. 1 Florida defeats No. 11 Dayton 

Wilbekin was able to do that but to his credit he didn’t stop there, joining his teammates in leading the program to a 36-2 record and their first Final Four in seven years. The Gators were able to get over the hump due in part to the ability of its point guard to get over his own personal “hump” that placed his Florida career in jeopardy.

“Some of the issues that happened during the summer was part of what brought us together as a team,” Wilbekin said Friday. “Just throughout the year, the type of games that we’ve been in and the grind of practice, it’s just really a combination of all those things bringing us together to the team that we are today.

“It’s a joy now to play with these guys and just to spend time with them.”

From a statistical standpoint Wilbekin accounted for 23 points, three assists and three steals in Florida’s 62-52 win over Dayton, but he also played a critical role in the defending of Jordan Sibert. After scoring 18 points against No. 10 Stanford Sibert failed to score on Saturday, and Wilbekin’s effort certainly had something to do with that. He’s been one of the best point guards in the country all season long, and Wilbekin’s growth in all aspects of his game is one reason why Florida’s headed to Texas.

MORE: No. 11 Dayton in a good spot heading into next season

However he wasn’t alone, with fellow seniors Casey Prather, Will Yeguete and Patric Young also having key roles. And from a growth standpoint, not many players in college basketball have come as far as Prather. After averaging 6.2 points per game as a junior Prather raised his production to 13.8 points per game this season, turning into the offensive threat few envisioned him becoming back in October.

Add in the burly Young and an energetic forward in Yeguete whose impact can’t be measured solely by the box score, and Florida had a capable cast of leaders who knew the pain that comes with falling short of their goal. And that was a motivation factor for the Gators, who are now headed to the Final Four.

Yet after getting over the hump there’s also the overwhelming feeling that this group is capable of more, as in winning two more games and delivering to their coach his third national title.

No. 10 Florida State uses early run and outlasts No. 12 Louisville

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Dwayne Bacon #4 of the Florida State Seminoles drives to the basket against the Illinois Fighting Illiniin the second half during the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Using a hot start in which they jumped out to a 16-2 lead, No. 10 Florida State held on from there as they outlasted No. 12 Louisville for a 73-68 ACC home win.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) led for the entire game as this was a one-point game with under two minutes left with a chance for Louisville to take the lead.

Both teams struggled to find consistent offense as 38.5 percent was the high mark between the two teams.

Freshman Jonathan Isaac was a standout on both ends for the Seminoles as the 6-foot-10 forward displayed his versatility in so many ways. Isaac finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds as its his third consecutive double-double. Dwayne Bacon (16 points) and Terance Mann (15 points) also played well for the Seminoles while Michael Ojo finished with 10 points.

Playing another game without Quentin Snider, Louisville (16-4, 4-3) the Cardinals struggled to open the game and never really recovered in this one. Tony Hicks led Louisville with 16 points and 17 field goal attempts and that usually isn’t a good sign for an offense that is facing a top-1o team on the road.

Mangok Mathiang had a solid outing with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Deng Adel (12 points) and Jaylen Johnson (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

VIDEO: Clock stoppage costs Georgia win at Texas A&M

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Mark Fox the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs gives instructions to his team during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M wiped out a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Georgia 63-62 on Saturday in one of the season’s odder endings.

The Bulldogs had the final possession trailing by one, but the clock inadvertently stopped with 5.6 seconds remaining. Georgia’s J.J. Frazier dribbled the ball near the top of the key, and thought he had time to pass down low to Yante Maten.

Maten received the pass from Frazier, and officials whistled a foul on the Aggies when Maten attempted a layup. With the clock still stuck at 5.6 seconds, officials used game video to count down Georgia’s final possession, and determined that time had run out before the foul was called on A&M.

Here is the play:

Georgia coach Mark Fox kept his composure afterward but was obviously upset at the outcome.

“Our kid (Frazier) looks up and thinks he has time to make a play, but he doesn’t,” Fox said. “I don’t know who stopped the clock; I’d like to know.”

Afterward A&M officials said a “belt-pack” worn by one of the officials malfunctioned and inadvertently stopped the clock. They were checking further into what happened. The Aggies (10-8, 2-5 Southeastern) snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Bulldogs (12-7, 4-3) have lost two of their last three.

Robert Williams led the Aggies with 18 points and D.J. Hogg followed with 16, while Maten led the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points.

Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene scores 50 points on Miami (OH)

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(Central Michigan Athletics)
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Central Michigan junior Marcus Keene has been a big story in college basketball this season since he’s become the nation’s leading scorer.

The 5-foot-9 guard had his finest scoring display yet on Saturday as Keene dropped 50 points in a Central Michigan win over Miami (OH) in the MAC. Keene only needed 23 field goal attempts to hit 50, as he was 10-for-15 from three-point range and 15-for-23 overall. He also went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Keene was averaging 28.7 points per game entering Saturday as his previous season-high was 44 points against Montana State. Keene also had 40 in a win over Green Bay.

The last player in a Division I game to score 50 points was South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters when he scored 53 points against IPFW on Feb. 7, 2013.

Oregon’s Dillon Brooks has a sprained foot

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 21: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks tires to dribble around Rodney Pryor #23 of the Georgetown Hoyas during the first half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 21, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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Oregon junior Dillon Brooks was diagnosed with a sprained left foot on Saturday after the star forward left Thursday’s win over Cal.

There is no timetable for when Brooks will return but a sprain is good news compared to what the injury could have been for Brooks.

The 6-foot-7 Brooks is averaging 13.4 points per game this season as the Ducks look like a much better team with him in the lineup. Brooks missed the first three games of this season with a left foot injury, so that is why there was major concern when Brooks left the Cal game.

Oregon’s faces Stanford at home on Saturday.

No. 9 North Carolina survives BC despite Berry’s off night

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 11:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a shot against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at LJVM Coliseum Complex on January 11, 2017 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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No. 9 North Carolina survived a scare from Boston College in Conte Forum on Saturday, winning 90-82 in a game that they led by one or two possessions for much of the second half.

Justin Jackson scored 22 points in the win while Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks combined for 34 points, 14 boards, five assists and three blocks.

Boston College isn’t the pushover that they were last season. The Eagles already have a pair of ACC wins in that building this year and their back court seems to have an axe to grind against the schools that didn’t recruit them. Ky Bowman, a Havelock, N.C. native, and Justin Robinson, a Raleigh native, combined for 51 points and seven assists against North Carolina. They had 43 points in a win over N.C. State and 40 points in a loss at Duke.

Put another way, North Carolina had to show up and play well to win this game. Beating BC isn’t a given this year.

And, frankly, UNC didn’t play all that well. They got lit up by BC’s back court and their stars, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, did not play all that well. Jackson finished with 22 points and hit a couple big shots, but he was 6-for-16 from the floor. Berry was more-or-less a non-factor. He hit a dagger three with just over a minute left but finished the afternoon with just nine points and sans an assists.

Maybe I’m making too much of it – and maybe I’m undervaluing the return of Pinson and how that affects who UNC needs to be a playmaker – but this win keeps UNC on pace with Notre Dame for first place in the ACC, and teams that win leagues as tough as the ACC is this season can only do so by winning the games in which they don’t play well.