AUSTIN, Texas -- If Florida's supposed weakness is that it hasn't won close games this season, then the Gators' strength is that they hardly ever have to play them. No. 3-seeded Florida rolled into the Sweet 16 with a 78-64 victory over 11th-seeded Minnesota on Sunday evening at the Frank Erwin Center. Florida entered the tournament with an 0-6 record in games decided by single digits. That record wasn't tested as Florida notched a 32-point victory over Northwestern State and then the 14-point win over the Golden Gophers. Florida (28-7) raced past Minnesota in the first half, then stiff-armed a Gopher charge in the second half to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. The Gators will face the Florida Gulf Coast-San Diego State winner in the South Region semifinal later on Friday at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Mike Rosario finished with 25 points to lead Florida, and Erik Murphy finished with 15 points after sitting out most of the second half in foul trouble. Scottie Wilbekin had 12 points and six assists. Andre Hollins scored 25 points to lead Minnesota. Rosario and Murphy highlighted an efficient first half for the Gators. Rosario hit 4-of-6 3-pointers on his way to 17 first-half points, and Murphy added 15 on 5-of-7 shooting. As a team, Florida shot 65 percent from the field in the first half to take a 48-27 lead to the break. Rosario connected from 3 on back-to-back possessions to set off a 12-2 run that gave Florida a 22-12 lead midway through the first half. Minnesota briefly battled back within 10, but then the Gators went off again. This time Rosario and Murphy hit back-to-back 3s, and Rosario capped a 15-1 run with another trey that put the Gators in front by 22. Minnesota went more than six minutes in the first half without a field goal and scored just one point as Andre Hollins hit one of three free-throw attempts after he was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. The Gophers took open shots during the stretch, but still missed nine straight as Florida surged ahead. The Gators pressed Minnesota for much of the first half and forced nine turnovers in the period. Florida also dominated the boards, out-rebounding Minnesota, 16-8, in the first 20 minutes. Andre Hollins, who led Minnesota with 25 points, made 3 3-pointers as the Gophers surged back in the second half. Hollins' third trey cut the Florida lead to nine, but Minnesota never got inside eight points. Hollins picked up his fourth foul with 6:12 left and went to the bench. Minnesota failed to keep its run going after that. NOTES: Florida guard Kenny Boynton scored his 2,000th career point in the Gators opening-round win over Northwestern State. ... Florida has advanced to the Sweet 16 and then to the regional final of the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. Prior to that, Florida had not advanced past the first round since winning the national championship in 2007. ... Minnesota's win over UCLA was Tubby Smith's first NCAA Tournament victory as the Gophers coach. ... Minnesota has not advanced to the Sweet 16 since the Gophers reached the Final Four in 1997. Minnesota was stripped of those NCAA Tournament wins due to academic infractions. ... Not counting vacated wins, Minnesota's first-round win was its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1990 when the Gophers defeated Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Minnesota went on to lose to Georgia Tech in the Southeast Regional final that season.
- Sports & Recreation