Friday, March 17, 2017

UF Basketball: No. 4 Florida Wins Opening NCAA Tourney Game Over No. 13 ETSU

The No. 4 seeded Florida Gators (25-8) won their first NCAA Tournament game of the Mike White era with a convincing 80-65 victory over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers (27-8). This game was a close one at the half as Florida held a slim 33-32 advantage. Once play resumed, however, the Gators pulled away as they capitalized on three-pointers and solid bench play.

Florida's Leading Men
The player of the game for Florida in this one was junior forward Devin Robinson. Shooting 10 of 17 from the field, D-Rob scored a game-high 24 points while also netting 2 of his 5 three-point attempts. He shared the team lead in rebounds as well with seven boards (two offensive and five defensive) while also blocking two shots.

Another Gator starter who had an impact on this game was senior point guard Kasey Hill. Having tournament experience as a freshman on the Final Four squad in 2014, Hill made sure that today would not be his final collegiate game. He shot 5 of 8 from the field while scoring 14 points for the Orange and Blue. He dished out a team-high five assists, hauled in six rebounds, and had two steals as well.

At power forward, sophomore Kevarrius Hayes did a good job being a versatile player for the Gators. Despite scoring just seven points, Hayes set a school tournament record with six steals in the contest. On top of that, he tied Devin Robinson in the rebounding category as he corralled four offensive boards and three more on the defensive end.

The Gator bench played a very key role in deciding the outcome of this one. Junior point guard Chris Chiozza put in a good performance as he racked up 14 points on a 4 of 5 shooting effort with five rebounds (one offensive and four defensive). He made both of his three-point attempts in the game and went 4 of 5 from the free throw line as well. His 23 minutes were the most by any Gator bench player.

Florida's leading man from the charity strike was no other than the SEC Sixth Man of the Year in Canyon Barry. Logging 16 minutes in the game, he went 5 of 6 on his underhanded free throw attempts while putting up seven points.

East Tennessee State's Leading Men
For the Buccaneers, they had to ride the hot hands of junior guard T.J. Cromer and junior forward Dave Burrell to keep this one competitive. Cromer scored 19 points in the game as he went 7 of 13 from the field. He made half of his three-point attempts (3-6).

Coming off the bench, Burrell scored 11 points for ETSU on a 4 of 8 shooting effort. Like Cromer, he shot 3 of 6 from downtown. In other phases of the game, senior forward Tevin Glass did a good job crashing his namesake as he brought down nine rebounds. He scored nine points on 4 of 9 shooting.

Finally, junior guard Jermaine Long did a good job being unselfish as he registered a game-high six assists in 19 minutes off the bench.

Final Takeaway
This game was exciting to watch, but ultimately the skill and depth of the Florida Gators prevailed as they ran away with this one. Before previewing Florida's Round of 32 matchup, here are my final tidbits on their first round victory:

  • This was Florida's fifth ever meeting with East Tennessee and after the win today the Gators remain a perfect 5-0 against the Buccaneers all-time.
  • This is the 15th time in school history that Florida has advanced past the first round in the NCAA Tournament.
  • This is Florida's first NCAA Tournament win since the 2013-14 season.
  • This is just the second time in school history that Florida has been seeded No. 4 in the NCAA Tournament. The first time was in the 2005 NCAA Tournament and that ended with an 11-point loss to No. 5 seeded Villanova Wildcats in the second round.
  • The win today marks the 18th time that Florida has won a game this year by double digits.

Looking Ahead
After proving many critics wrong and avoiding the 13-seed upset, the No. 4 seeded Florida Gators (25-8) will now prepare for a matchup with the No. 5 seeded Virginia Cavaliers (23-10). This will be Florida's third ever meeting against Virginia with their most recent coming in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Gators won that game by a score of 71-45.

Tipoff is set for 8:40 p.m at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The game can be seen on TNT.

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