Florida Gulf Coast University's Cinderella run ended the way most bad dates do: with anger, frustration, self-loathing and and a vow to never speak of this night again.
Wow, was this an ugly game. Like, "delete from your DVR and smash your DVR" ugly. FGCU's in-state rival Florida "won" this 62-50, and by won we mean "finally remembered who was the 3 seed and who was the 15 seed." This is the kind of game film that coaches regard the same way the rest of us regard our high school yearbook photos: as a vow that their players should never, ever, ever look that wretched again.
Riding a national wave of goodwill, Florida Gulf Coast University jumped out to a 15-4 lead, throwing down a couple trademark alley-oops along the way, and surely some Eagles fans began thinking that maybe, just maybe there was a chance they'd surprise the Gators. Happened twice already, right?
But it wasn't to be. Florida remembered that it was, well, Florida, and used a combination of suffocating defensive pressure inside and smarter shot selection outside to unfurl a 23-2 run. And while Florida had trouble putting away FGCU — the Eagles were within seven with under three minutes remaining — the outcome was never really in doubt once Florida found its feet. The Gators simply ground Cinderella's glass slippers into shards.
FGCU had as many turnovers (20) as it had made field goals (yep, also 20). That's lesson #1 in how to give away a game. Florida shot an even worse percentage from the field, 39 percent to 46 percent, but wore the Eagles down with an offensive philosophy best characterized as "throw enough crap at the basket and some of it's going to go in."
The key play came with two minutes left in the game. Florida's Mike Rosario, inbounding the ball from the halfcourt sideline, bounced the ball off the back of FGCU's Christophe Varidel, then took the ball straight to the rack. That was the basketball equivalent of planting a blue-and-orange flag in the smoking ruins of Dunk City.
Still, let's not let our final images of FGCU overshadow the magnitude of what they accomplished. The first 15th seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen, the team put their school on the map — that's almost literally true; most of America hadn't even heard of FGCU a week ago — and reminded us of why the NCAA tournament is so much fun.
Florida moves on to face Michigan on Sunday with a berth in the Final Four on the line. FGCU, meanwhile, heads back to Fort Myers. It wasn't a pretty ending, but then 66 other endings in the NCAA tournament aren't any prettier.
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