Florida Gators Make Elite 8 Run

by Dennis Berry
(Kentucky )

The University of Florida Gators were in action in the Southeast Regional this past week. This was there first Sweet 16 since the 2007 Championship team. They would face the face an old NCAA Tournament foe, the BYU Cougars and Jimmer Fredette. This was a rematch of a first round game from the 2010 NCAA Tournament that BYU won 99-92 behind 37 points from Fredette.

Florida knew that in order to win they had to find a way to slow down Fredette. The nation's leading scorer on the year came in averaging 33 points in two tournament games. Fredette was able to score 29 points, but he shot 11-29 from the field and 3-15 on three point shots, to get there. It was in large part due to great defense from Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker. Both were able to keep Fredette in front and not let him get easy shots.

For Florida, it was a balance attack with four Gators scoring in double digits. They were lead by senior Alex Tyus who had a career game in the Sweet 16. He had a double-double with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Boynton had 17 points . Walker and SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons each had 16.

This game would need overtime to decide the winner. Florida would end up pulling away in overtime. Fredette and the Cougars looked tired in overtime and could not hit shots. Fredette had costly turnovers that Florida would turn into points as they ended up winning 83-74. This game would see both teams combine to shoot 71 three point shots, a NCAA Tournament record.

Florida's reward for the win was a date with last year's National Runner-Up, the Butler Bulldogs in the Elite 8.

This would be the first trip to a regional final for Florida since 2007. Coach Billy Donovan came into the game at 3-0 in regional finals. For Florida, it would be another overtime game.

The first half was back and forth. Florida was able to take advantage down low in the post with Vernon Macklin. He scored 15 points in the first half to pace Florida. Florida was doing a good job of running its offense and Macklin was making the Bulldogs pay down low. Butler was lead by Shelvin Mack who had 14 points. Florida had a one point lead at halftime.

The Gators were able to push the lead to as many as 11 points with nine minutes to play in the game. That is when Butler made a comeback. Butler had made it a four point game with just over 4 minutes left. That is when Mack took over for Butler. Mack would score six of Butler's last seven points to help tie the game at the end of regulation. Florida had a chance to win it at the end, but Walker missed a three point shot at the buzzer.

Overtime would bring the end of Florida with little team play and their leading scorer for the game on the bench. Guards Walker and Boynton tried to take over the game in overtime. Although both would hit their first three point shots in OT, both would make terrible decisions at the end of overtime, taking deep three points shots early in the shot clock that would miss.

Meanwhile, Mack would continue his steady play and lead the Bulldogs back to the Final Four for the second straight year. Mack would lead all scorers with 27.

The most interesting thing to point out is at the end of overtime, while Walker and Boynton were taking bad three point shots, the Gators leading scorer and best player in the game, Macklin was on the bench.

Although it was not the end to the season that Florida would like, they still won the SEC East title and SEC Regular Season Championship. Not a bad year in Gainesville at all.

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