Gators face Huskies in Final Four
Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 6:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 7:07 p.m.
Call it fate. But top-ranked Florida will get a chance to avenge the last time it lost this season in the Final Four.
At AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Connecticut (30-8) vs. Florida (36-2)
WHEN: Saturday, 6:09 p.m.
The Gators will face the Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA tournament semifinals at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday. The No. 7-seeded Huskies defeated Michigan State in the East Regional final Sunday, 60-54
Florida (36-2) lost at Connecticut 65-64 on Dec. 2 on a putback 12-footer at the buzzer by star UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier. The Gators have won 30 straight since to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2007 and fifth time in program history.
Napier scored 26 points to lead Connecticut (30-8) to the win over Florida at the Gampel Pavilion. The Gators played down the stretch without both of their point guards. Freshman Kasey Hill sat out the game with a sprained ankle, while senior Scottie Wilbekin rolled his ankle with three minutes remaining in the game and did not return.
While Napier and junior guard Ryan Boatright will be tough for Florida to guard on the perimeter, the Gators should have an advantage inside. Florida outrebounded Connecticut 34-26 and outscored the Huskies 32-14 in the paint. Florida senior center Patric Young had a big day inside in the first meeting with 17 points and seven rebounds.
In its last three games (Pittsburgh, UCLA, Dayton), Florida, the top overall seed, has outrebounded its opponents by an average margin of 9.3 per game.
Florida players insist they are not going into the Final Four complacent after breaking through the Elite Eight barrier with Saturday's 62-52 win over Dayton. UF's previous three seasons had ended with Elite Eight losses.
Asked if a weight was lifted from UF's seniors, Young said: “Once you achieve something that people say you can't do, then something else is going to come up. 'Now that they made it to the Final Four, are they going to beat this team?' Are we going to win a national championship? Whatever it may be. We're just going to stay within ourselves, do what we do best and not worry about the things we can't control.”
FREE THROWS: Florida coach Billy Donovan improved to 4-3 in Elite Eight games. Per terms of his contact, Donovan's NCAA tournament bonus increased from $75,000 to $100,000 for reaching the Final Four. That bonus would increase to $150,000 if UF wins the national title. … As part of a home-and-home series, Connecticut will play at the O'Connell Center next season.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.