Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

East Region: Florida silences doubters, dispatches East Tennessee State 80-65

ORLANDO — When analyst Seth Davis pegged fourth-seeded Florida as a potential first-round upset victim on CBS's Selection Sunday Show, the Gators were watching on their locker-room big screen TV.

The volume was cranked up. They heard what Davis said.

And they heard it again Thursday, when coach Mike White played the clip moments before UF took the Amway Center court for an 80-65 win over East Tennessee State.

"Just to make sure," White said.

The motivational ploy worked. UF (25-8) outhustled No. 13 seed ETSU early with three dunks and a 14-6 lead. And the Gators closed well to withstand a dreadful shooting stretch in the middle and win their NCAA Tournament opener for the fifth time in a row.

Florida advances to play fifth-seeded Virginia in Saturday's East Region matchup after the Cavaliers held on for a 76-71 win over pesky North Carolina-Wilmington earlier in the day.

The Gators brushed off Davis' prediction when they heard it live Sunday. UF was still hurting from back-to-back losses and three defeats in its past four games.

By Thursday afternoon, the 10-second clip became personal.

"We knew we didn't want to be that team, to be the upset," guard Chris Chiozza said.

The ingredients for the upset were there Thursday, in front of an announced crowd of 15,037.

After jumping out to an early 14-6 lead, UF's offense regressed, as it has at times throughout the season. The Gators missed 10 of 11 shots in one first-half stretch. They missed their first seven 3-pointers. Their two best scorers — guards KeVaughn Allen and Canyon Barry — combined for only 14 points on 2-of-15 shooting.

But the fuel from Davis' perceived dig and the strength of UF's supporting cast were good enough to overcome those struggles and earn a double-digit victory.

"I think that's something this team has kind of been built on all year," Barry said. "On any given night, any one person can step up."

This time, it was the trio of Devin Robinson, Kevarrius Hayes and Chiozza.

Robinson tied a career high with 24 points and starred with one pivotal stretch, not long after the Buccaneers (27-8) took their only, brief lead of the game. Robinson sank a 3, grabbed a defensive rebound, then sank another 3 to put UF ahead 44-37 with 15 minutes left.

Hayes set a UF tournament record with six steals, including two during a game-changing 24-6 run in the second half. Chiozza scored all 14 of his points in the second half to prove Davis wrong and end any lingering ETSU upset hopes.

In a quiet room after the game, White admitted that replaying the selection show clip might not have been necessary. It's hard to play the us-against-the-world card at a top-20 program with two national championships.

Regardless, his Gators said it helped avoid an upset in White's first NCAA Tournament game as a coach, and the first of every player aside from senior guard Kasey Hill.

"That put a chip on our shoulder, you know," Robinson said. "We can't stop here. This is only one game."

But it was enough to give the Gators one more, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

East Region: Florida silences doubters, dispatches East Tennessee State 80-65 03/16/17 [Last modified: Thursday, March 16, 2017 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Alex Faedo, Florida advance to face LSU in College World Series finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo pitched three-hit ball for 71/3 innings in a second straight strong performance against TCU, and Florida moved to the College World Series finals with a 3-0 win Saturday night.

    Florida’s Austin Langworthy scores on a single by Mike Rivera in the second inning during a 3-0 victory over TCU.
  2. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Rays journal: Jumbo Diaz falters after getting within a strike of ending rally

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game got away starting with a leadoff walk in the seventh inning by Rays LHP Jose Alvarado, who was brought in exclusively to face Baltimore's lefty-swinging Seth Smith.

    Rays reliever Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Orioles score four during the seventh inning to give them a 7-3 lead. Diaz was one strike away from working out of the jam before he allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer on back-to-back pitches.
  4. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It was refreshing to see RHP Jacob Faria take the blame after the loss even though he gave the Rays a chance to win. Too often young pitchers are encouraged by what they did and not necessarily the outcome, but Faria, making just his fourth big-league start, came to the Trop to win, didn't, and pointed the finger …