Gators warned to be wary of Florida Gulf Coast


Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.

For the second straight year, Florida is facing a No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Facts

GATORS IN SWEET 16

What: The University of Florida Gators vs. Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles in NCAA Sweet 16 round.
When: 9:57 p.m. Friday.
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
TV: TBS.
Information: Visit www.gatorsports.com or www.gatorzone.com/basketball.

Last year, the Gators knocked off 15th-seed Norfolk State in the Round of 32. This time, Florida is facing Florida Gulf Coast University, the first 15-seed ever to make the Sweet 16. Game time on Friday is scheduled for 9:57 p.m. on TBS at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Gators-Eagles follow Michigan vs. Kansas set for a 7:27 p.m. start. The winners will meet Sunday in the Elite Eight, the launching pad to the Final Four, set for April 6-8 in Atlanta.

Miami coach Jim Larranaga is aware of the problems Florida Gulf Coast can present. The team knocked off the ACC-champion Hurricanes 63-51 on Nov. 13 in its home opener. The Eagles have also toppled Georgetown and San Diego State to Reach the Sweet 16.

Larranaga called FGCU point guard Brett Comer "one of the best point guards in the country." Comer ranks 16th nationally in assists at 6.4 per game.

"He finds the open man as good as anybody and he's got shooters at every location," Larranaga said. "They play extremely hard, they spread you out and they are not afraid to run the floor with you. Against us, they were very effective in their zone defense. And very effective ball screening us to death. They are a very solid team."

Other things to know about the Florida Gulf Coast program:

— Head coach Andy Enfeld is in his second year at the helm of the program after serving as a Florida State assistant from 2006-11. Like Florida coach Billy Donovan, Enfeld is a Rick Pitino disciple, having served as an assistant under Pitino from 1998-2000 with the Boston Celtics.

— Florida Gulf Coast ranks 20th in the nation in steals at 8.9 a game. The Eagles also rank 43rd in scoring offense (73.3 ppg), 46th in 3-point defense (30.9 percent) and are 50th in field-goal percentage (45.9 percent).

— FGCU's weaknesses are scoring defense (66.9 ppg allowed), taking care of the ball (14.6 turnovers per game) and free-throw shooting (.667).

— Donovan could call close friend and former Florida assistant Shaka Smart for a scouting report. VCU knocked off Florida Gulf Coast 80-57 in the season-opener for both teams.

Larranaga said he's not surprised that FGCU has made a run in the tournament.

"One of the things about guys who fly under the radar screen who are very good, they play with more confidence and more determination than the opponent normally expects to see," Larranaga said. "You think, once you get these guys down it's over with, and it's not, because those guys are going to fight you for every possession and for every minute of the game."

Kevin Brockway is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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