- Jason King
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OMAHA -- Quick thoughts from Florida's 71-45 victory over Virginia Friday at the CenturyLink Center.
Overview: Florida advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament, but the Gators probably didn't throw much of a scare into their future opponent. At least not in the first half.
With the Missouri Tigers watching from the crowd, the Gators missed their first 15 3-point attempts before finding their groove in a 26-point dismantling of Virginia. As lackluster as Billy Donovan's squad was in the first half, Florida caught fire in the second. The Gators shot 69.6 percent after intermission in what turned out to be one of the more lopsided games in the NCAA tournament thus far.
Florida's performance was good enough to get past an injury-riddled, overmatched Cavaliers squad that hadn't defeated a high-quality team since beating Michigan on Nov. 29. But Donovan knows it will take a much better effort to get past No. 2 seed Missouri if the Tigers advance as expected by beating No. 15 Norfolk State.
Casey Prather and Bradley Beal had 14 points each for No. 7 Florida while Patric Young added 13. Virginia senior forward Mike Scott, an All-ACC performer, had 15 points in his final game as a collegian.
Turning point: Virginia opened the game on 10-2 scoring run, but not much went right for Cavaliers after that. Florida went on a 28-12 tear that resulted in a 30-22 halftime lead. It was never close in the second half.
Key player: Beal chipped in 11 rebounds to go along with his 14 points -- an impressive total for a guard.
Key stat: Florida and Virginia combined to miss their first 20 3-point attempts before Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin finally connected from beyond the arc late in the opening half. The teams were a collective 1-for-22 on 3-pointers before intermission.
Miscellaneous: Virginia was making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007. ... Tony Bennett's father, Dick Bennett -- the former Wisconsin head coach -- was in the stands Friday to support his son. ... Florida is now 26-9 in NCAA tournament games under Billy Donovan. ... The Gators advanced to the Elite Eight last season. ... Florida had lost four of its past five games before Friday.
What's next: Florida improves to 24-10 and advances to play either Missouri or Norfolk State on Sunday. Virginia ends its season 22-9.