- Jason King
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“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Young said.
That’s not entirely true. Sunday’s victory propelled the seventh-seeded Gators into the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year, which is more than 52 other NCAA tournament teams can say after the opening weekend of postseason play.
But it was easy to see how it may not have felt like all that big of a deal to Young and his teammates after annihilating a Norfolk State squad that was so bad it was embarrassing.
Where was the Spartans team that shocked the world by upsetting Missouri on Friday? What happened to all those long, lanky 3-point shooters who couldn’t miss? And what about Kyle O'Quinn, the vivacious 6-foot-10, 240-pound center who had 26 points and 14 rebounds 48 hours earlier against the Tigers.?
O’Quinn had just four points and three rebounds Sunday.
“He didn’t come out with the passion and energy I thought he was going to have,” Young said. “That affected him and it affected his entire team.
“We hadn’t anticipated anything like that.”
Granted, Norfolk State probably didn’t realize just how good of an opponent it would be facing in the Gators, who have won their two NCAA tournament games by an average of 30 points. Florida defeated Virginia 71-45 in the Round of 64 on Friday.
Florida will take on Marquette on Thursday in Phoenix. The Golden Eagles are the No. 3 seed in the West Region.
“I haven’t seen Marquette play a lot,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said, “but I’ve heard unbelievable things about them. Certainly, their seed is a reflection of who they are.
“Certainly, I will have a chance to watch them a lot starting tonight. I know they’re a good team. I know they play hard.”
So, too, do the Gators.
Sparked by their trademark, full-court defensive pressure, Florida rendered Norfolk State helpless. The same team that shot 54 percent from the floor against Missouri connected on just 27 percent of its field goal attempts Sunday.
The Spartans were just 4-of-24 (16 percent) from 3-point range and were outrebounded 48-31.
“They have a different type of athlete,” Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans said of Florida. “Having [Erving] Walker and those guys get up and pressure you for 94 feet is different than some of the other teams we’ve played.
“Maybe it was fatigue, but we don’t want to make excuses about it. They did a great job. Hats off to them.”
Florida trailed 6-4 early but then went on a 25-0 tear that gave the Gators a 29-6 lead. Bradley Beal scored seven points during the march while Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy added six apiece. It was a never a game after that, as Florida led by 28 points at intermission. UF extended its lead to as many as 38 points in the second half.
Boynton led five Gators in double figures with 20 points. Beal added 14 points and a team-high 9 rebounds. Marcos Tamares scored 12 points for Norfolk State, which received a standing ovation and loud cheers from the thousands of Kansas fans who were waiting for their team to play Purdue in the nightcap at the CenturyLink Center.
Jayhawk supporters were thrilled that the Spartans defeated former Big 12 rival Missouri two days earlier. As bad as it played Sunday, no one can ever take that away from the Spartans, who are one of just six No. 15 seeds in history to defeat a No. 2 seed.
Norfolk State was playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.
“If you look at where we came from, this is a big step,” O’Quinn said. “So for everybody to witness that step that we took as a university ... you’ve got to be proud. You have to be.
“We’re not satisfied with losing, but we knew coming in that you either win a national championship or you go home. That’s the nature of the game.”
2hSam Khan Jr.