ORLANDO– In a physical 40-minute battle the Florida Gators (34-2) survived to advance, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 61-45.
The focus coming into the game for Florida was avoiding the lethargy that plagued them in the second round match-up against Albany, and they did so with an energetic beginning to the game. The Panthers fought hard though, not allowing easy buckets and putting constant defensive pressure on the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Florida was able to gain a bit of breathing room in what was a tightly contested first half when guard Scottie Wilbekin hit a running three off of his left foot at the buzzer to give Florida a 27-22 lead heading into the break.
In the second half the Gators began with a furious 7-0 run to begin the half and push their lead to 10 points, it was all the breathing room they’d need –at one point leading by 14, and cruising to the finish.
The Gators were led in scoring by Wilbekin who scored a game-high 21. Center Patric Young as well as forward Dorian Finney-Smith shared the lead in rebounds with eight boards and in assists three players topped the home half of the box score with two dimes.
Pittsburgh was carried offensively by Talib Zanna who had 10 points; they were also led in the rebounds by Lamar Patterson who had eight. The leader in assists for the Panther was James Robinson who had a game-high six.
Florida will play the winner of the UCLA-Stephen F. Austin game in the Sweet 16, the game will be played in Memphis, TN.