Florida holds off Minnesota to set up all-Sunshine State showdown in Arlington

Christian Corona

No upset here.

No. 3 seed Florida earned the chance to play more basketball in the Lone Star State after pounding No. 11 seed Minnesota, 78-64, in the Round of 32 at the Erwin Center on Sunday. The Gators will face No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Friday. 

"I don't think we'll be sick of Texas as long as we keep winning," Florida guard Casey Prather said.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing Cowboys Stadium," Gators center Patrick Young said.

Florida Gulf Coast became the seventh No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to beat a No. 2 seed when the Eagles shocked Georgetown with an 81-71 victory over the Hoyas on Friday. Then they became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 after taking down No. 7 seed San Diego State, 81-71, on Sunday.

"I think it'll be good for the state," Prather said of the all-Sunshine State Showdown. "We know seed doesn't mean anything in the NCAA Tournament. Anybody can lose. Anybody can win. Coach [Billy] Donovan does a great job of keeping us ready and keeping us on edge."

With the convincing win over Minnesota (21-13), Donovan has led the Gators (28-7) to three consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. 

"It speaks volumes about the type of players Coach Donovan recruits and the type of coach he is," Prather said.

After pounding No. 14 seed Northwestern State, 79-47, on Friday, Florida got off to a fast start against Minnesota. The Gators went on a 27-5 run and held a 48-27 lead at halftime. Mike Rosario scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the first half and Erik Murphy scored all of his 15 points during the first 20 minutes. 

"We just couldn't stop them at anything in the first half," Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said. "Maybe we're just a slow starting team for the most part."

The Golden Gophers, who got 25 points from Andre Hollins, didn't go away without a fight. They went on a 13-2 run to start the second half and trimmed Florida's lead to as few as seven points but their comeback attempt fell short. 

After picking up its first NCAA Tournament win since reaching the Final Four in 1997 with a 20-point thumping of UCLA on Friday, Minnesota suffered their second-worst NCAA Tournament loss in school history. 

With the win, Florida improved to 28-1 in games decided by double digits this year. The Gators have yet to win a game decided by fewer than 10 points, going 0-6 in such contests.

"It's big, definitely to do it on this stage," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said of how the Gators closed out the game. "That's not going to be the last time we're going to be in that situation. I think every game from here on out is going to be close or a team will go on a run. It's great that our team has that confidence going into the Sweet 16."