Three Key Takeaways.
- Florida Out-Toughed Marquette. Except for a few moments where Marquette brought its patented Buzz Williams hustle and toughness to the fore, the ‘soft’ Gators mostly out-toughed the Golden Eagles on this night. They beat them on the boards by one, blocked six more shots, and didn’t back down at all when MU got in their face. We’ve been critical of Billy Donovan’s teams (other than the “oh-fours”) in the past because of too much perimeter play and a lack of fortitude, but this bunch never wavered when facing a team that makes its living of off that stuff.
- Marquette’s Stars Never Seemed Comfortable. It’s hard for us to give too much credit to Florida’s defense, but something was definitely bothering both Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom tonight. The two players combined for a 10-30 shooting night, and without their offensive capabilities, Marquette was never going to seriously threaten the Gators. Perhaps worse than that, though, with the two stars struggling, the rest of the starting lineup didn’t do much better. Jamil Wilson, Vander Blue, and Junior Cadougan went for 11 total points on 4-20 shots themselves. Ugh.
- Gators’ Lack of Size Hasn’t Hurt Them Yet. This wasn’t the matchup where the Gators’ lack of talented size caught up with them, but you have to figure that it will eventually. Sometimes with the right matchups, though, a team can get on a roll, and that’s exactly what the Gators have done. Billy Donovan talked about how the team didn’t appear to play very well down the stretch of the regular season, but he attributed much of that to the level of competitions they were playing in those games. We’re not sure what that says about this year’s NCAA Tournament field (at least the Gators’ path to the Elite Eight), but with how well Louisville is playing, they’ll have to earn it on Saturday afternoon.
Star of the Game. Bradley Beal, Florida. Beal looked like the future lottery pick that he will be tonight, as he carried the Gators through some key stretches with his drives to the goal and timely three-point shooting. He ended up with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and only missed two field goal attempts on the night. Superb outing for the freshman.
Quotable. “Beal is their swing vote… because he’s so multi-talented.” Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, on the Florida guard’s play tonight.
What’s Next? Florida will advance to play the surging #4 Louisville Cardinals with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Billy Donovan, with two national championships and three trips to the Final Four on his resume, will play his mentor, Rick Pitino, with a single national title and five trips on his resume. Wow.