Florida Gators Basketball Sweet 16 bound with Virginia Win

The Florida Gators were clicking on all cylinders in Saturday’s 65-39 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia’s elite defense was the biggest storyline coming into the game, but in the end, Florida’s defense got the last laugh. It was the Cavaliers’ lowest point total since scoring 38 against Wisconsin in 2013 and the fewest points allowed by Florida since 2014.
The Cavaliers held four teams under 40 points this season, so the Gators made sure to return the favor.
After a slow start, Florida trailed Virginia 13-11 with 11:42 remaining in the first half. A Devin Robinson jumper would tie the game a minute later and the Gators would never trail again.
Virginia continued to hang on as Florida led 19-17 in the final five minutes of the half. After a two-minute drought from both teams, Justin Leon would go on to score eight straight points followed by four more tacked on by Kevarrius Hayes to end the half with a 31-17 lead.
Leon added on two more three-pointers early in the second half and led Florida to a 21-0 run from the final minutes of the first half to the first minutes of the second half that essentially put the game away.
With that, the Gators had a 20-point lead less than two minutes into the half and would lead by as many as 29 late in the game as Virginia’s offense could never find an answer.
On paper, it was Florida’s best defensive game of the season, as it held Virginia to 17 points in the first half and 39 points overall. The Cavaliers shot just 30 percent (16-for-54) from the field and were nonexistent from long-range, making just 1-for-15 from beyond the arc for seven percent.
“I think we just had to get them uncomfortable and play our tempo,” said Robinson. “We knew if we played at their methodical tempo, it would have been a tough game for us. We just tried to stay aggressive on defense and get in transition as best we can, and that turned to great offense.”
While playing aggressive defense, the Gators also played smart defense by not fouling and sending the Cavaliers to the line. Virginia did not have a single free-throw in the first half and only had seven attempts in the game.
Following the game, Mike White said he felt Virginia misses several opportunities throughout the game by not taking advantage of mistakes, but he had to agree that overall it was still his teams’ best defensive game.
“That’s about as well as we’ve played defensively,” said White. “We put a lot of it together tonight. I’m really proud of the defensive effort, the focus, the lock-in. Especially when we got up, I don’t know, say 16, we didn’t have a drop-off, and we’ve had that four or five times this year. We didn’t have it tonight.”
Coming into the game, the Gators knew they would have to keep Virginia’s leading scorer London Perrantes in check. Perrantes went off for 24 points, with 19 coming in the second half, to push the Cavaliers past UNC Wilmington on Thursday
With just a day to prepare, Florida found the right combination to stop him. He finished with six points and four turnovers on the night. With Perrantes kept under control, no other Virginia player could step up in his place as no player even made it to double-figures.
“That’s Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza,” White said, giving his guards the credit for stopping Perrantes. “Those two guys have done a terrific job all year utilizing their speed and quickness and toughness … Despite their size, with their speed and quickness and toughness, it allows them some versatility in guarding guys off of the ball. Virginia does a terrific job with ball screens for London, but also setting a ton of screens off of the ball for him as well. They have played that role for us all year defending high-level guards coming off a million screens in SEC play, and they’ve always stepped up to the challenge.”
Along with outstanding defensive play, Florida’s offense broke down one of the best defenses in the country as nine different players scored in the game. The duo of forwards, Leon and Robinson led the charge, each finishing with a double-double. It was Robinson’s fifth career double-double and the first for Leon.
Robinson followed up his 24-point performance that led the Gators to a victory on Thursday with 14 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday. He was 5-for-8 from the field and 2-for-4 from three.
Leon, on the other hand, finally broke out of a funk that has weighed on his shoulders for several weeks. His 14 points were more than he had scored in the previous three games combined and his 10 rebounds were a season-high. He was 4-for-8 from the field and led the Gators at 3-for-6 from three.
“It’s amazing how far the guy’s come,” White said on Leon. “It’s amazing. He gets the double-double and goes 3-of-6 from three, but this was his best defensive effort as well. I can’t remember one glaring mistake that he made. I can’t remember him getting straight line driven. I can’t remember him missing a blocknout. He was really sound … Tonight was his best game as a Gator.”
With the win, Florida advances to the Sweet 16 to play eight-seed Wisconsin on Friday. The Badgers advanced with a 65-62 upset win of the No. 1 overall seed and defending national champion Villanova.

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Bailiegh Williams
Growing up the daughter of a baseball coach in a household that revolved around Gators sports, Bailiegh’s future working in sports was her destiny. She played four years of varsity softball at Suwannee High School and one year on softball scholarship at Gulf Coast State College. In her first year she discovered a love for journalism so she packed her bags and moved to Gainesville to finish her A.A. and begin interning for Gator Country. She is now on track to graduate from the University of Florida in 2019. In her free time, Bailiegh enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows and spending time with her family and her two fur babies.