March 16, 2012

Instant Analysis: Blowout Victory

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The No. 7-seed Florida Gators (24-10) proved on Friday that they deserved to be seen as a serious contender in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, routing the No. 10-seed Virginia Cavaliers (22-10) 71-45 in second-round action in Omaha, NE.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: At the end of a possession defended nicely by Virginia, Florida sophomore center Patric Young found freshman guard Bradley Beal wide open on the wing for a dagger three that put UF ahead 51-32 with 10:13 left in the game. Beal added a mid-range jumper under a minute later, extending the Gators' advantage to 21 points and putting the contest out of reach for the Cavaliers.

THIS STAT DOESN'T LIE: Despite struggling from downtown (Florida started 0-for-13 and finished the game 4-of-23), the Gators were nearly perfect from inside the arc, hitting 24-of-30 shots (80 percent) to make up for their paltry average from long range. Florida was also dominant on the boards, outrebounding the Cavaliers 36-21 overall and 9-2 on the offensive glass.

HE STOLE THE SHOW: After barely seeing the court over the final three months of the season, sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather played 22 minutes and scored a career-high with 14 points while playing excellent defense on Virginia's best player, Mike Scott. Prather saw extra court time due to Young getting his second and third foul early in the second half and made the most of it. He was unfazed by the big stage and remained in control on both ends of the court, holding onto the ball and making smart decisions especially on offense.

OH WHAT A PLAY: For the second-straight contest, an emphatic dunk by Prather was the highlight of the game for Florida. Already with 12 points on the afternoon, Prather was the recipient of a beautiful alley-oop pass from senior point guard Erving Walker with 2:37 remaining in the game. The dunk gave Prather his career-high point total and capped arguably the best game of his career in a Gators uniform.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: Though Scott still posted a team-high 15 points and six rebounds on 6-of-10 shooting, Prather's defense held him below his season averages of 18.1 and 8.4, respectively. Scott had scored 23, 35 and 28 points over his last three games before being stifled by the Gators' defense. Young also helped contain Scott but did not spend as much time as Prather did on him due to foul trouble.

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