No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, the alley-ooping Cinderellas whose high-flying, abandon-all-hope style carried them through the NCAA tournament’s first two rounds, blowing by all semblance of history and into the national spotlight, fell to third-seeded Florida 62-50 in the Sweet 16 Sunshine State battle at Cowboys Stadium.
The Eagles sprung to a shocking 19-9 lead early, because seriously, they couldn’t pull off another upset, could they? But here was FGCU, running all over the nation’s most efficient defense, dunking like the Gators were Georgetown or San Diego State. Everyone was excited, Michigan included, Marshall Henderson notwithstanding.
The full university acronym is FGCUOMGWTFUMADBRO
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) March 30, 2013
— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) March 30, 2013
In a stadium that seats more people — 42,614 — than FGCU had attend its 16 home games combined, the upset bid lost some steam as the half wore on.
Florida began hitting shots, taking away Florida Gulf Coast’s vaunted transition attack. And once the Eagles entered the half court, they began coughing up turnovers like an ordinary Atlantic Sun team facing the SEC juggernaut. Coach Andy Enfield’s squad has 13 giveaways at halftime — the same number it posted in 40 minutes against both the Hoyas and Aztecs.
Of course, everyone wrote off Florida Gulf Coast because the Gators snatched a little momentum, words that proved prophetic once several second-half runs failed to gain traction.
It — meaning everything — starting to come unglued for FGCU now. But it was sure fun for 18 minutes or so.
— Eric Prisbell (@EricPrisbell) March 30, 2013
The boys from Dunk City realizing you can’t dunk if you cough it up on the way down the floor.
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) March 30, 2013
Regression to the mean city. RT @jordanbrenner: So FGCU has 15 points in the last 21 minutes. What city is that?
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 30, 2013
— Chris Jones (@MySecondEmpire) March 30, 2013
Behind 15 points from Mike Rosario and 19 from its bench, Florida reaches its Elite Eight, while Florida Gulf Coast returns home to bask in its new-found fame. Sherwood Brown had 14 points and Chase Fieler chipped in 12 for the Eagles. Point guard Brett Comer dished out seven assists, but committed nine turnovers.
Somehow, the tournament will soldier on without its darling Eagles. The Gators will face Michigan on Sunday in the South Regional final, looking for their first Final Four since 2007.
At least FGCU went down doing what it does best: dunking.
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Photos: Scenes from the tournament