Gators get into gear by crushing UC Santa Barbara

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Florida must’ve had an easy button.

The Gators crushed 15 seed UC Santa Barbara in their NCAA tournament opener, 79-51, for their first tourney win since beating Ohio State for the 2007 title.

Florida (27-7) made 11 of its first 15 shots and silenced most of the critics who wondered if the SEC’s regular-season champs were worthy of a 2 seed. For one game, it looked like it.

The frontcourt dominated – not a regular occurrence for Florida – and helped the Gators to a 43-19 halftime lead, the most points they’ve ever scored in the first half of an NCAA tournament game. It also was the fewest points allowed in a half by the Gators.

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They’ll play the winner of the Michigan State-UCLA game on Saturday.

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