Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 62 # 11 Dayton 52

Posted by David Changas (@dchangas) on March 29th, 2014

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David Changas (@dchangas) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. He filed this report after #1 Florida’s 62-52 win over #11 Dayton. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Elite Eight and Final Four. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCsouthregion, and @RTCwestregion

Many have argued that the Gators are the best in the country. Now Billy Donovan's crew will be on the biggest stage to prove it. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Many have argued that the Gators are the best in the country. Now Billy Donovan’s crew will be on the biggest stage to see if they can prove it. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Stingy Gator Defense. Florida came into the game with one of the nation’s best defenses, and the Gators showed why on this night. They held Dayton to 39.6% shooting. Florida made it especially difficult the Flyers to score from inside the arc, as the Flyers made only 11 of 30 two-point attempts. We expected Dayton would have a much more difficult time scoring on against Florida than it did against Stanford on Thursday, but given the Flyers’ excellent ball movement, we didn’t expect it to be this tough. With Patric Young and Will Yeguete holding things down in the middle, Dayton’s offense was simply over-matched on the interior.
  2. Controlling the Glass, Again. One of the keys to Florida’s win over UCLA was its ability to limit the Bruins’ second chances. Against Dayton, Florida had an 18-15 rebounding edge at the half, as the Flyers held up well and held the Gators to only four offensive boards. The second half was a different story, as Florida out-rebounded Dayton by eight and ended the game with a 37-26 advantage on the glass. Late in the game, when Dayton cut the lead to eight with just under four minutes to play, the Flyers allowed the Gators to get three offensive rebounds and run over a minute off the clock. Though Florida didn’t score on the possession, it was able to take precious seconds off the clock, and essentially took away any chance Dayton had to get close enough to have a chance to win.
  3. Dayton Held its Own. The Flyers became the Cinderella story of this Tournament by knocking off three higher seeds on the way to their first Elite Eight appearance since 1984. And while they simply didn’t have enough to take down the Tournament’s top overall seed, the Flyers acquitted themselves quite well on the big stage. At several points in this game, the Flyers could have packed it in, but they refused to. They trailed by 14 at the half, but came out in the second with two quick threes to cut the lead to 8. Though they never got any closer than that, Florida had a tough time putting them away. Dayton coach Archie Miller served notice that as long he’s at the helm of the program, bright days are ahead.

Star of the Game. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida. Who else? Wilbekin is the Gators’ best player, and he showed it once again. He finished the game with 24 points and went 3-for-5 from three-point range. Most importantly, in 38 minutes, he committed no turnovers and was in control throughout.

Quotable. 

  • “That’s a very, very good team. To be on the same floor with them was really a big-time feeling for everyone in our program.” – Dayton coach Archie Miller.
  • “For these four seniors, I couldn’t be any prouder of them and what they have accomplished.” Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Sights and Sounds. We can’t overemphasize how impressive the Dayton fan contingent was this weekend. They were the only source of real noise on Thursday night, and tonight, they outnumbered Florida fans by a healthy margin. Though their team trailed most of the way, the fans stayed involved in the game, and the “Let’s go Flyers!” chant could probably be heard in Ohio. Even after the game was out of hand, they broke into a loud “We are UD” chant. They lived up to their reputation as one of the nation’s best fanbases.

Wildcard. To the surprise of no one, Wilbekin was named Most Outstanding Player on the All-Region team. He was joined on the team by his teammate, Michael Frazier II, Dayton’s Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre, and Stanford’s Dwight Powell.

What’s Next? Florida heads back to the Final Four for the first time since 2007. That year, the Gators were the prohibitive favorite and won the second of their back-to-back national championships. This year, they appear to be the team best positioned to win the title again. They were never really threatened on their road to Dallas. They will draw the winner of the Michigan State-Connecticut East Region final. If the Huskies win, Florida would have the opportunity to avenge its last loss, which came on December 2 in Storrs when Shabazz Napier hit a last second shot. If Michigan State is the opponent, we would be treated to a match-up of two of the most successful postseason coaches of the past 25 years.

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