The Gators came out aggressively from start to finish and proved to the country why they deserve to be the #1 seeded team of this year’s NCAA Tournament. The first half showed a tight matchup, but the nagging nemesis for the Panthers all game was their inability to rebound the ball. Topped with a quiet game from both Zanna and Patterson, and there was a recipe for a Gator win. Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said it best:
“Florida is the most physical team we’ve played all year long. We didn’t execute well enough. We didn’t rebound well enough.”
However, Dixon reiterated several times that the loss to Florida was solely his fault. Florida’s coach Billy Donovan agreed with Jamie Dixon’s assessment of the game.
“The big key was we out-rebounded them and we held them on the glass. Gettng off to a good start was important. Playing a good team like Pitt you don’t want to get down and try to play catchup.”
The Gators Scottie Wilbekin stepped up for his teammates, and the Panthers had no answer for him in the second half. Coupled with Will Yeguete playing as aggressively as ever, and there was no looking back for the Gators. Florida now advances to the Sweet 16, and if they continue to play their style of ball, there will be no answer for them in this tournament.
Although the Billikens scored 40 of their 51 points in the paint, their ineffectiveness behind the 3-pt line was the clear difference in the game. For the first time this entire season, the Billikens managed not to hit any 3-point shots and went 0-15. In fact, Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said that one of the Cardinals focal points of this matchup was to take away the 3-point shot from an SLU team that is known for their skill behind the line.
“The emphasis we put on taking away the 3-point shot was big. We felt that if we gave up the three we would get beat tonight.”
Turnovers didn’t help the Cardinals either, as they finished the game with 19. However, they had help from the Billikens, who also had 18 turnovers. Billikens Coach Jim Crews made note of his team’s lack of execution on many aspects of the game this afternoon.
“We weren’t good enough with the ball. We weren’t very good offensively. We did turn the ball over too many times.”
This wasn’t entirely the case, as the Billikens proved highly effective in the paint. However, the Cardinals ability to take away the Billikens 3-point shooting, along with an offensive explosion from F Luke Hancock with 21 points helped Louisville to be the second team to advance to this year’s Sweet 16. Coach Pitino did talk about the struggles of his star G Russ Smith by saying that he felt Smith forgets that teams prepare for his shooting abilities and he sometimes has to remind the senior that his ability to distribute the ball to his teammates is also a recipe for a Cardinals victory every time. Louisville now awaits their Sweet 16 opponent, but according to Pitino, Smith will be receiving a crash course on how the other team scouts him this upcoming week.