Florida Gators Play Championship Style Defense, Hold UVA To 39 Points, Advance To Sweet 16

By  //  March 19, 2017


ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of the Gators second round win over Virginia. 

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Many wondered what the outcome would be during the NCAA Tournament if the Florida Gators played an all-around game for 40 minutes.

Wonder no more.

The Gators turned in a perfect night on defense and continued to watch  junior Devin Robinson emerge nationally, as UF stymied the Virginia Cavaliers with a 65-39 win on Saturday night in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando.

The win propels the Gators into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in program history where UF has advanced to the Elite 8 in six of their last seven Sweet 16 appearances, including winning their past four trips on day one of weekend number two. (2014, 13, 12 & 11)

How good was Florida’s defense vs. the Cavaliers on Saturday night……consider the following.

UVA played more minutes in the game than they scored points.

The Gators held the Cavaliers to 1 of 15 from beyond the arc and just 16-54 from the floor, that’s 29.6 percent shooting on the night.

Virginia’s 17 first half points were a season low and the Cavaliers hadn’t scored fewer than 40 points since December 2013, a 48-38 loss to ironically the Gators Sweet 16 opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers.

This was also the lowest output for the Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament since they were defeated 71-45 in a first-round loss to, who else, the Florida Gators in 2012.

Perhaps playing defense that hard would create free throw opportunities for the Cavs—think again.

UVA went to the charity stripe seven times all night.

“I want to tell you, Florida played a heckuva defensive game, and we were very poor offensively,” said UVA coach Tony Bennett.

ABOVE VIDEO: Alan Zlotorzynski of Space Coast Daily speaks with Canyon Barry, son of NBA Hall of Famer, Rick Barry about the Gators performance. 

The Gators gave UVA a taste of their own medicine, flipping the script on a Cavaliers team that ranked first in the nation in opponents points per game allowed and ranked sixth overall in defensive team efficiency.

When asked about his teams near perfect defensive performance vs. a team that prides itself on the way they stop teams, Gators head coach Mike White said, “Yeah, in Virginia’s defense, they missed a few open ones. They did. We got a couple bounces our way.”

“That’s part of it. They didn’t make us pay for a few mistakes that we made, but we reduced the amount of mistakes, in my opinion, as well. That’s about as well as we’ve played defensively. We put a lot of it together tonight. I’m really proud of the defensive effort, the focus, the lock-in.”

“Especially when we got up, I don’t know, say, 16, we didn’t have a drop-off, and we’ve had that four or five times this year. We didn’t have it tonight”

Devin Robinson who tied a career high on Thursday with 24-points, left Orlando with a double-double in his pocket scoring 14-points and grabbing 11 boards in 31 minutes of play.

ABOVE VIDEOS: Gators guard Chris Chiozza speaks with reporters and Space Coast Daily about his teams effort vs. UVA and advancing to the Sweet 16. 

Florida Forward Justin Leon was the player of the game, as he also recorded a double-double with 14-points and 10 rebounds.

It was the first time this season two Gators posted a double-double in the same game.

Nine different Gators scored in the contest.

Chris Chiozza continued his hot play off the bench scoring seven points with four rebounds and five assists.

Chiozza, along with Gator guards KeVaughn Allen and Kasey Hill shut down Virgina’s leading scorer London Parrantes.

The freshman sensation who scored 24 points on Thursday vs. UNC Wilmington, went 2-for-10 from the floor and managed just six points, three assists and turned the basketball over four times.

ABOVE VIDEO: The scene in the locker room following Florida’s win over Virginia in the NCAA Tournament 2nd Round.

Coaches always preach the importance of finishing and starting each half strong and if Mike White discussed this with his team, they were surly listening.

UVA overcame a 15-point deficit on Thursday to advance to play the Gators but Florida ended the first half and started the second half on a season high 21-0 run that destroyed any thoughts the Cavaliers had at coming back in this one.

In fact, UF held UVA scoreless for nearly eight minutes, spanning the last five minutes of the first half and first couple minutes of the second.

Most of the scoring during the run was done by Leon who scored eight straight points late in the first half to swing all the momentum to Florida and he added a pair of threes to give the Gators a 40-17 lead with 17:39 to play in the game.

The senior scored just 3 points in the Gators’ NCAA Tournament opener Thursday against East Tennessee State and came in averaging 6.9 points per game.

The Gators gave UVA a taste of their own medicine, flipping the script on a Cavaliers team that ranked first in the nation in opponents points per game allowed and ranked sixth overall in defensive team efficiency. (FloridaGators.com)

“It feels good, especially with me being a junior college guy and I can be able to say I’m going to the Sweet 16,” Leon said. “Especially, I guess like tonight’s game, (to) kind of give my team a boost and lead them to it, it feels pretty good — great actually.”

Leon was head coach Mike White’s first true signee at Florida after White accepted the job in Gainesville.

Leon was playing JUCCO ball at Shawnee Community College in Illinois and in fact, was signed twice by White, who had him ready to join him at Louisiana Tech.

Offensively, UF knocked down 46 percent of their shots against a team that allowed opponents to make just 39.6 percent for the season.

Up next for Florida is a trip to New York city and the Sweet 16 to face the Wisconsin Badgers.

ABOVE VIDEO: Down goes the number one overall seed! Wisconsin defeats Villanova, 65-62, and the Badgers advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth straight year.

It won’t be easy on Friday night. Wisconsin entered March Madness with more wins in the tournament than any other team over the last four years.

The success of the current Badgers program really began when they made a Final Four run as a No. 8 seed in 2000.

This is Wisconsin’s 18th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and the sixth time in the past seven years the Badgers have advanced past the first weekend of the tournament.

The eighth seeded Badgers pulled the tournaments first real big upset knocking off the No.1 overall seed and former defending champs, the Villanova Wildcats.

ABOVE VIDEO: Wisconsin senior forward Nigel Hayes scored the game-winning basket with seconds to go in the game as the Badgers stunned top-seeded Villanova.

WATCH LIVE: No. 4 Seed Florida Gators, No. 3 Seed Florida State Seminoles Look To Advance To Sweet 16 TonightRelated Story:
WATCH LIVE: No. 4 Seed Florida Gators, No. 3 Seed Florida State Seminoles Look To Advance To Sweet 16 Tonight

This years Badgers are a tale of two teams.

Wisconsin spent the first three months of the 2016-17 season as a top-10 team and presumptive Big Ten favorite. Since then and excluding their first two tournament games, the Badgers have fallen into a black hole shooting the ball that doesn’t have a net attached, which explains their No.8 seed.

As their shots have begun to fall in the past two games, the Badgers look well underseeded.

They are led by  Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ, who have combined to score nearly 70 percent of the badgers 149 points scored through the first two tournament games.

Hayes (17.5 PPG), Koenig (22.5 PPG) and Happ (11 PPG) will force Florida’s defense to once again be at the top of their game.

Hayes scored the winning bucket, a layup with 12 seconds to play, to give the Badgers the 65-62 upset win over the defending national champions on Saturday in Buffalo.