NCAA: Florida and Dayton advance
Scottie “McBuckets” has Florida deep in the NCAA tournament once again. The Dayton Flyers are the latest mid-major upstart still in the bracket.
The Gators (35-2), the tournament’s top overall seed, will face No. 11 Dayton (26-10) on Saturday in the Elite Eight after both teams cruised to relatively easy victories in the South Regional on Thursday night.
Florida pushed past No. 4 UCLA 79-68 thanks to a stellar performance by Gators’ senior Scottie Wilbekin. The 6-foot-2 point guard hit several big shots in the second half to put away the pesky Bruins, finishing with 13 points.
“Scottie McBuckets, if you want to call him that,” Florida center Patric Young said. “He’s been performing as the go-to guy. He’s making the shots when they’re available and we know we can trust him and that he’s going to make it happen.”
Wilbekin, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, had plenty of help. Michael Frazier scored 19 points, Casey Prather added 12 and freshman Kasey Hill came off the bench to add six points, six rebounds and 10 assists.
Jordan Adams led UCLA (28-9) with 17 points. Kyle Anderson had 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Florida’s takes a 29-game winning streak into Saturday’s game. It has lasted nearly four months.
Now the Gators are back to where their season has ended the past three years. The Elite Eight is where Florida lost to Butler in 2010, Louisville in 2011 and Michigan in 2012.
Florida wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the UCLA win. The elusive Final Four is close.
“Personally, I don’t think there’s anything to enjoy,” Frazier said. “We’re trying to keep advancing, and you can’t take a breath because every team now is a good team. We can enjoy what we’ve done after the season.”
The Gators promise they won’t take Dayton lightly.
“They’ve earned their spot here just as we have,” Young said. “We’re going to respect them, just as much as they respect us. We know they’re a good team. If they’re here, they are going to be one of the eight teams left.”
Dayton advanced by blasting past No. 10 Stanford for an 82-72 victory a few hours earlier. The Flyers used 12 players in the first half — sending seemingly endless waves of blue and red onto the court — to slowly grind Stanford down.
Jordan Sibert led the Flyers with 18 points, while freshman Kendall Pollard came off the bench to add a career-high 12 on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
Dayton’s deep bench outscored Stanford’s 34-2. The Flyers are in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984. Stanford (23-13) fought foul trouble all night and was led by Chasson Randle’s 21 points.
“We had 11 guys score in the game and from top to bottom, we kept coming and coming,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “The way they shared the ball and moved the ball ... it was a true team effort. It’s nice that on the biggest stage, we acted like ourselves.”
It was quite the night for the Miller family. Archie joined his brother in the Elite Eight after Sean Miller coached Arizona to a 70-64 victory over San Diego State.
Beating Florida will be Dayton’s toughest assignment yet. The Gators are a veteran team with few weaknesses and a strong desire to put recent tournament disappointments behind them.
But Dayton hasn’t shied away from any challenge yet. The Flyers already have dispatched Ohio State, Syracuse and now Stanford.
The last remaining Atlantic 10 school in the bracket keeps chugging along.
“We’re known right now throughout the nation as the ‘Cinderella team,’ but we really believe that we are an elite team and we can compete with anyone in the country,” Dayton forward Dyshawn Pierre said.