No. 10 seed Florida stops Nevada comeback for 70-61 upset

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Florida senior guard Jalen Hudson drives to the basket past Nevada forward Jordan Caroline during the first round Thursday of the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Eric Olson, Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida was cruising toward a surprisingly easy victory over Nevada in its opening NCAA Tournament game.

Then Nevada furiously tried to stave off the upset with a frantic second-half push that fell just short. Florida nearly squandered a double-digit lead before finally stopping the comeback and closing out a 70-61 Thursday night victory in the West Region.

“I thought we were just watching the clock and hoping a little bit,” Florida coach Mike White said about Nevada’s late push.

Andrew Nembhard, whose last-second shot beat LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament last week, drove to the basket for a layup with 1 ½ minutes left and Florida scored the last seven points after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack had rallied from down 18 to cut the deficit to just two points.

The Gators (20-15) were the third double-digit seed to win Thursday.

Kevarrius Hayes scored 16 points, Jalen Hudson added 15 and the 10th-seeded Gators won their tournament opener for the third straight year.

Cody Martin scored 23 points and twin brother Caleb Martin had 19 for the Wolf Pack (29-5). The two combined for 28 of their team’s 33 points in the second half as Nevada rallied.

“They did a great job of speeding us up,” White said. “They made us play a little faster. Their run was fantastic. They were getting stops, playing with a crazy amount of energy. We did just enough. We were very fortunate to hold on.”

The Gators controlled the pace into the second half with their deliberate offense, often letting the shot clock run into single digits before shooting. The SEC’s top-rated defense clogged passing and driving lanes and contested almost every shot.

“We knew what they were going to do,” Caleb Martin said. “Unfortunately, we had a lot of mental breakdowns. We missed some crucial free throws and just didn’t get off to a good start.”

KeVaughn Allen made back-to-back shots to start a 12-0 run early in the second half that swelled the Gators’ lead to 51-33 with 14 minutes left.

The Wolf Pack began to bother Florida with their full-court press. After Caleb Martin stole the ball from Jalen Hudson in the backcourt and dunked, it was 58-51 with 6 minutes to play. Caleb Martin’s two free throws made it 63-61 with 2:02 left, but Nevada could get no closer.

“They really sped us up,” Hudson said. “We were playing too fast and making jump passes, which aren’t allowed here. With three or four minutes left in the game we were able to snap back in get into our rhythm.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators can count on Nembhard in the postseason. He had only eight points against Nevada, but he came up big when needed and stemmed the Wolf Pack’s comeback with a dazzling drive to the basket against Jazz Johnson.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack made a run to the Sweet 16 last year after overcoming deficits of 14 points to beat Texas in overtime and 22 to beat Cincinnati. They couldn’t finish their comeback against Florida and finish the year with a program record-tying 29 wins.

HE SAID IT

“We just couldn’t get over the hump against a team that slows it down. This one will hurt.” — Cody Martin.

UP NEXT

Florida: The Gators play No. 2 seed Michigan or No. 15 Montana on Saturday.

Nevada: The Wolf Pack go into next season off a two-year stretch of 58 wins, the best in school history.

Note: The Gators are now 44-17 all-time in NCAA games and 17-5 in NCAA first-round games (although the first two wins were vacated). White is now 5-2 in three NCAA Tournaments with three consecutive trips to the Round of 32.

FLORIDA 70, NEVADA 61
FLORIDA (20-15)

K.Johnson 3-14 4-4 10, Hayes 5-6 6-8 16, Nembhard 4-6 0-1 8, Hudson 5-13 2-2 15, Allen 3-7 3-4 10, Bassett 2-3 0-1 4, Stokes 1-1 0-0 2, Locke 1-3 2-2 5. Totals 24-53 17-22 70.

NEVADA (29-5)

Thurman 2-5 3-4 7, Caroline 2-11 3-7 7, Porter 1-3 0-0 2, Ca.Martin 5-22 7-9 19, Co.Martin 8-12 5-5 23, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Henson 0-0 0-0 0, J.Johnson 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 19-55 18-25 61.

Halftime_Florida 37-28. 3-Point Goals_Florida 5-18 (Hudson 3-7, Locke 1-3, Allen 1-5, K.Johnson 0-3), Nevada 5-24 (Co.Martin 2-5, Ca.Martin 2-11, J.Johnson 1-2, Thurman 0-2, Caroline 0-4). Fouled Out_Thurman, Hayes. Rebounds_Florida 28 (K.Johnson 10), Nevada 37 (Caroline 11). Assists_Florida 11 (Nembhard 6), Nevada 4 (Thurman, Ca.Martin, Porter, J.Johnson 1). Total Fouls_Florida 19, Nevada 21.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Is it ok to breathe now? That got scary.
    Nevada was favored and may be an outstanding second half team, but the Gators were tough and were determined to advance. They play disciplined on defense and Coach White got them to 20 wins despite all the set backs. I’m happy for the seniors getting to advance for another game. Hayes and Hudson really stood out when it counted.
    Go 🐊🐊🐊🐊🐊

  2. Great win for the Gators. A little more nerve wracking than it needed to be because of the scoring drought. The Gators beat the pressure easily, but KJ missed several easy shots that would’ve kept them comfortably ahead. Another double-double by KJ, great offensive performance by Hayes, and the balanced scoring was great to see. I was critical of Bassett, but he came through with a big dunk in the clutch. Fantastic team win to get to 20 wins yet again. Go Gators!

  3. I felt like my brain was fried…..I can’t even imagine what Coach White was feeling through that. I saw a couple times when the camera was on him yelling at them to wake up, can’t even imagine what he was telling them to light a fire under their tails. It just looked like the 5 seniors of Nevada saw their college careers ending earlier than they wanted it to, and really played like there was no tomorrow, while our guys were playing a bit just to survive. I think Lee Humphrey said it best though about the comeback that the team wasn’t really having bad offensive series against their defense, they just weren’t getting the ball to go in on very makeable shots. I think the first to 60 wins against Michigan…should be a grinder of a game.

  4. Win or go home time, so happy with the result. But I hope CMW is running 3 on 2 breaks in the hotel lobby right now. UF could’ve won game by 20+. When Nevada started doubling Nembhard in first half past the timeline, I was thinking UF should flash KJ as release valve so he can turn and have man advantage. Those opportunities were there full court in second half, but KJ did not deliver like he can and should. He’s a smart player who plays with poise generally. Just not his night at the rim despite stat line of 10 and 10.

    Also.. and I harp on this a lot. CMW needs to hone in on his rotations. I know he said he shortened his bench, but when Bassett got early fouls, he went to Stokes… then shelved him rest of game. I don’t know what game he was seeing out there, but Bassett’s plus minus had to be horrible. Turnovers, and 1s, no rebounding, blocked dunk attempts. I know he set a pick to free Nembhard and dunked one late, but when UF got frazzled there, I think Stokes hands, passing and finishing ability would’ve helped slow down Nevada’s run by making them pay a bit for overextending.

    But a wins a win. Go Gators.

    • Holy Guacamole, I was scratching my head thinking the same thing. It’s my belief they were told to slow it down no matter what, so they turned down a host of easy layups coming off Nevada’s pressure. I don’t know if they took it too literally and had the green light if it was there or not. That’s the only way I can explain turning down easy points. We won. Hopefully some will get off the fire White wagon, as his results speak for themselves. One game at at time.

      • The fire CMW stuff is crazy to me. It’s nonsense. He’s a good coach, who is also learning and growing. My guess on whether they had a green light to score after breaking press is that they did. CMW even said in presser that they couldn’t set their defense with all those close misses. What I saw was KJ, Nembhard, etc playing with hesitancy in those situations because this team has been conditioned to play deliberately out of necessity. The team is so used to working for every shot that open lanes had to look bizarro to them. Last year’s team would’ve played those opportunities differently because of the pace Cheese played with.

  5. I do believe that Stokes is going to be a solid player for the team in the future, but I have a feeling that because it took him so long this season to figure himself out personally and what it was going to take to get to the level a lot of people were saying he is capable to getting to, he wasn’t able to log in enough solid minute games to be a go to guy in the paint when some size and strength is needed to relieve or give another look that’s not Hayes. Not sure he’ll too many more minutes against Michigan either, but you never know.

    • Stokes is still working on his conditioning etc. but he has a bright future. Right now he is good on offense but a high liability on defense due to his lack of foot speed which is why Coach White is playing him limited minutes. As he gets in better shape that will improve.

  6. They got stuck at 51 and 58 points, respectfully. That’s how I now monitor our slumps. More than three trips down the court without scoring and we’re in trouble. I give credit to Nevada for their comeback. Again, the other team was too big for us to handle for a while. White and team figured it out just in time, adjusted and won.

    • Imo, Nevada’s comeback was mostly due to the Gators’ failure to hit easy shots after breaking Nevada’s press. It was a matter of missing good shots rather than poor execution. They consistently got the ball in the front court to KJ with a numbers advantage, and he just couldn’t finish on some point blank shots. His 3-14 shooting line tells the tale, but he did his part overall with another double-double. If the adjustment you’re talking about is Allen and Nembhard taking the ball to the hoop for FT’s and a lay-up, respectively, I think you’re right.

      Nevada went through some droughts, as well. You can blame it on missed shots, good D by the Gators, or a combination, but they went extended minutes without points on about 3 or 4 occasions during the game.

      You’re right about Nevada’s length causing some trouble, especially when Hayes had to sit for foul trouble. They’ll be smaller than Michigan, too, so they’ll need to adjust again, but I suppose they’ve gotten accustomed to that by now.

  7. Interesting side note to this game. Nevada started 5 seniors and the Gators 3. In today’s college hoops, it would be interesting to know when was the last time an NCAA Tournament game saw 8 seniors starting for their teams? It was great to see the UF seniors, Hayes, Hudson and Allen all play a pivotal role in the win. Go Gators.

  8. First of all… Has College Basketball officiating just gone totally into the toilet? Where were the whistles on all the grabbing, hand checking, and tackling by Nevada?

    Secondly… Nevada’s players were a bunch of thugs. Three of them should have been fouled out by 10 minutes left in the second half.

    Third… White’s refusal to call needed time-outs in that Nevada comeback late in the game, his bizarre personnel changes, and poor clock management nearly cost us this game. He redeemed himself by calling for a man defense late that seemed to stymie Nevada’s rally.

    IMO, Mike White saved his job for another year with this win. That said, we cannot go into a trance for 10 minutes against Michigan, or they’ll blow out doors off.