OMAHA, NEB. – Virginia coach Tony Bennett laid out what seemed to be a straightforward formula for success in his team's NCAA men's basketball tournament game against Florida — handle Florida's full-court press, keep the Gators from going crazy in transition and defend ball screens.
Achieving one of the three objectives — denying the fast break — Friday clearly wasn't enough.
Still, one might assume keeping Florida from doing what it does best, shoot 3-pointers, might be enough to help U.Va. get its first NCAA tournament win in five years, right? Not quite.
Without glancing at the scoreboard in the final minute, the depth of No. 10 seed U.Va.'s collapse could be gauged by senior Mike Scott's reaction, sitting on the bench, head in his hands for a few moments as No. 7 seed Florida finished off a 71-45 West Region second-round victory.
"If you're going to lose, you obviously don't want to lose like this," said U.Va.'s Joe Harris, who scored seven points on 2 of 9 shooting from the floor.
U.Va. (22-10) tied its season-low for points, matching its production in a 47-45 loss to Virginia Tech. The last time U.Va. lost to a non-conference team by a wider margin was Nov. 22, 2010, in a 106-63 loss to Washington in the Maui Invitational.
Scott finished his final college game with 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor. No other U.Va. player scored in double figures.
"It felt like our offense affected our defense today, which for us should never be the case," said U.Va. guard Jontel Evans, a Bethel High graduate who had eight points.
Florida (24-10), which advanced to Sunday's third round game in Omaha against No. 15 seed Norfolk State, leads the nation with an average of 9.9 successful 3-pointers per game.
Florida missed its first 14 shots from beyond the 3-point line, and combined with U.Va. to miss the game's first 20 attempts from 3-point range. U.Va. was still able to jump out to a 10-2 lead in the first six minutes, but it didn't last.
Florida didn't make its first 3-pointer until Scottie Wilbekin nailed one with 1:08 left in the first half to put the Gators up 30-22. Despite its uncharacteristic ice-cold perimeter shooting, Florida still managed to build an eight-point halftime lead on the strength of a full-court press and a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points.
"I thought the pace of the game, even though the score was not high in the first half, we got the pace the way we wanted to," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team was led by Casey Prather off the bench and Bradley Beal, both of whom scored 14 points. "We were able to press, create turnovers, didn't shoot it well, they didn't shoot it great either, but it allowed us to get on the break."
The Gators out-scored the Cavaliers 44-24 in the paint for the game, and Florida's bench out-paced U.Va. 22-3.
"That's the most I've seen the ball touch the paint against our defense," U.Va. coach Tony Bennett said. "Whether it's just a post feed, ball screen defense or just guys beating us off the dribble, we didn't have an answer."
It really started to unravel for U.Va. early in the second half, as Florida used a 17-2 run to grab a 53-32 lead with 9:13 remaining. During Florida's nearly eight-minute run, U.Va. went 1 of 9 from the floor. U.Va. never trimmed the deficit under 19 points the rest of the way.
"I just thought we came out with a lot of energy, executed on defense, got what we wanted on offense, but they made their run and they just came out in the second half very strong," said Scott, who didn't score a field goal in the second half for the first seven minutes, 39 seconds.
After shooting just 40 percent from the floor in the first half, Florida woke up, making 69.6 percent of its second-half shots to finish 52.8 percent shooting for the game. Florida shot a season-worst 17.4 percent (4 of 23) from 3-point range, but it made 80 percent (24 of 30) of its two-point attempts.
U.Va. connected on 38.3 percent of its shots, including 16.7 percent (3 of 18) of its 3-pointers. Senior guard Sammy Zeglinski had eight points on 3 of 11 shooting, including 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
"I've been a part of Virginia for the past five years – some good memories, some bad memories," Zeglinski said.
"It was tough to end this way, but I liked what I was a part of."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times