Preview: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 11 Minnesota
Florida and Minnesota will try to maintain the momentum from their impressive NCAA Tournament openers as they meet in the South Regional quarterfinals Sunday in Austin, Texas.
The third-seeded Gators stomped No. 14 Northwestern State 79-47 on Friday, about 2 1/2 hours before the 11th-seeded Golden Gophers took down No. 6 UCLA 83-63.
Northwestern State entered the tournament as the highest-scoring team in the nation but Florida held the Demons to 15 second-half points.
Minnesota smothered the Bruins from the opening tip, holding them to 31.7 percent shooting - including a combined 13-for-52 from the starters - on the way to its most lopsided win in tournament history.
Florida features a well-balanced offense led by seniors Erik Murphy, Kenny Boynton, and Mike Rosario. The trio entered the tournament averaging between 12.3 and 12.6 points. Murphy, a 6-10 post player, will need to team with 6-9 junior center Patric Young to keep Minnesota off the boards.
The Golden Gophers entered the tournament ranked eighth in the nation in rebounding margin (8.2).
TV: 5:10 p.m. TNT.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (21-12): Andre Hollins is still a sophomore but he's quickly becoming known for elevating his play this time of year. After averaging 19.5 points last season in the final two games of the Big Ten tournament and the first four of the NIT, Hollins scored 28 in Friday's victory against UCLA. His ability to score in bunches-he put up 41 points earlier this season in a win against Memphis-makes him a threat to put Minnesota on his back. As the primary ball handler, he's also been careful with his turnovers, recording two or fewer in nine of the last 10 games.
ABOUT FLORIDA (27-7): Boynton scored 11 points against Northwestern State, becoming the second player in program history to surpass 2,000 for his career. If the senior guard can stick around long enough to score 84 more, he would pass Ronnie Williams (1980-84) as the school's all-time leading scorer. Boynton has played in 10 NCAA Tournament games in his career, averaging 14.8 points while leading the Gators into the Elite Eight the last two seasons. He's supported in the backcourt by Rosario and junior Scott Wilbekin, though the best 3-point shooter on the team is Murphy at 45.6 percent.
1. Minnesota coach Tubby Smith and Florida coach Billy Donovan were part of Rick Pitino's first coaching staff at Kentucky in 1989-90.
2. Minnesota and Florida played Florida State eight days apart during the nonconference portion of the season. Minnesota beat the Seminoles by nine points and the Gators prevailed by 25.
3. The winner will play either seventh-seeded San Diego State or No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast at the South Regional semifinals at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
PREDICTION: Florida 76, Minnesota 72.
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