Posted March 30, 2013

Florida Gators End Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’ Cinderella Run In Sweet 16

NCAA Tournament, SEC
The Gators forced Florida Gulf Coast into 20 turnovers in the Sweet 16 matchup. (SI)

The Gators forced Florida Gulf Coast into 20 turnovers in the Sweet 16 matchup. (SI)

ARLINGTON, Texas — After 10 minutes, it appeared Dunk City’s Cinderella ride was going to last at least two more days, and really, anything seemed possible. After 40 minutes, it was resoundingly over, with SEC heavyweight Florida showing Florida Gulf Coast the gulf in class between the two programs, pulling away to a comfortable 62-50 win.

After a very slow start in which they found themselves trailing by 11 points on two different occasions, the Gators came all the way back to lead by four at the break, then scored the first seven points of the second half to take their own 11-point advantage and never looked back. FGCU, the tournament darlings who had rolled past No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State, was out of sync and out of ideas, never getting closer than seven the rest of the way.

Neither team shot well in the cavernous confines of Cowboys Stadium — the winners only made 22 of 57 shots (38.6 percent) for the game — but it was the defensive pressure applied to the upstart Eagles that was decisive. FGCU point guard Brett Comer, who had 24 assists in the Eagles’ two upset wins last weekend, was forced into a seven-assist, nine-turnover effort, part of a 20-miscue night that sank them. The Gators attempted 13 more field goal attempts and 12 more free throws, advantages in bulk that more than helped them offset their erratic shooting eyes.

With the victory, the Gators advance to their third straight Elite Eight, and their sixth in the last 14 seasons. They will face Michigan on Sunday afternoon, hoping that the final go-round for this group of Gators ends better than the previous two years, when Florida gave up large leads down the stretch.

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