Three Key Takeaways.
- Three-point shooting was the killing blow. The biggest difference between Friday and today was the three-point shooting by Florida. Against Virginia the Gators were completely cold behind the arc, only hitting one three before halftime. Against Norfolk State, the Gators hit seven before the half that effectively led to their 28-point lead. For the game the Gators shot 10-of-28 from three, a far cry from the four they made on Friday. Florida set a school record with made three-pointers this season and they will need those to go down as they progress through the tourney.
- Ball movement. Florida has done a great job in Omaha with its ball movement. Despite Norfolk State playing zone for a large part of the game, Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and the rest of the Gators were moving around and looking for the open man when the Spartans would shut off drives to the basket. They were obviously quicker than Norfolk State, but they will have to keep up their intensity for the whole game. After getting out to a large lead on the Spartans, their intensity fell off quite a bit in the second half. But the Gators only turned the ball over eight times for the game. Constant ball movement is a big part of the Billy Donovan offense.
- Balance will win games. Florida doesn’t have a dominant player like Thomas Robinson or Anthony Davis, but their team is really balanced. Walker (15), Boynton (20), Bradley Beal (14), Mike Rosario (10), and Erik Murphy (10) all scored in double figures for the Gators. Patric Young didn’t even score his first field goal until early in the second half, as he finished with only six points. It will take a combination of players having a good game for Florida to continue to advance.
Star of the Game. Kenny Boynton, Florida. Although the Gators were balanced, it was Boynton who got things going for Florida with his 20 points and seven rebounds. His physical play got Norfolk State out of sync and they could not recover.
Quotable. “I’m extremely proud of my team, we did things that have never happened before at our university.” – Anthony Evans, Norfolk State head coach
Sights & Sounds. The Norfolk State band again was in full force, this time on the total opposite end of court than Friday. However, they were still very powerful and the fans in the stands enjoyed their enthusiasm. Even the Purdue band that was right next to me waiting for the next game, all they could say was “wow.”
Wildcard. A #15 seed has never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Still, Norfolk State won the hearts of fans in Omaha during this trip as there were pockets of fans wearing their green St. Patrick’s Day shirts to show their support for the Spartans. The Gators have now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history, six of which have occurred under head coach Billy Donovan.
What’s Next? The Gators now head to Phoenix to take on Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen, where the Golden Eagles will try to slow down this quick Florida offense. The Florida guards look like they might be a little quicker than those from Marquette, but the Golden Eagles have a bit more inside. It should be a great game Thursday night.