As dominant of a first half as the three-seed Florida Gators have put together this season coupled with a strong final nine minutes and a career-high 25 points from redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario fueled the Southeastern Conference champions to an impressive 78-64 victory over the 11-seed Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday and into their third-straight Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.
Florida head coach Billy Donovan, who earned his seventh-straight win over Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith, saw his Gators explode with a 27-5 scoring stretch in the first half that put them ahead of the Golden Gophers for good.
Senior forward Erik Murphy and redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario exploded in the first half, while junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a big-time spark for UF in the second half of the team’s second game of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, TX.
Rosario went 8-for-12 from the field, 6-for-9 from downtown and 3-for-4 from the free throw line for his UF career-high 25 points. Murphy finished with 15 points on 2-of-4 shooting from three, and Wilbekin went 7-of-10 from the charity stripe to post 12 points along with a game-high six assists.
With the game tied at 10 early in the opening period, Rosario hit consecutive threes as part of a 12-2 run that pushed Florida ahead 22-12. Two more treys from Rosario, complimented by one from Murphy, helped the Gators score 11-straight points and extend their scoring stretch to 27-5. UF led 37-15 with 5:17 left in the first half.
Minnesota (21-13) responded with a 10-2 run of its own fueled by four Florida turnovers in five possessions including two especially reckless miscues from Wilbekin and cut their deficit to 14 with 3:12 remaining.
The Gators (28-7) answered with nine-straight points including a second three from Murphy and a highlight alley-oop from Wilbekin to junior F Casey Prather to go up 23.