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Florida pulls away from Minnesota late to advance to Sweet 16

Mar 24, 2013, 8:49 PM EDT

Scottie Wilbekin AP

We’re still not sure how Florida will fare in a close game against a high-major opponent after the Gators’ 78-64 win over Minnesota, but coach Billy Donovan’s team almost manufactured a close game for themselves down the stretch.

After leading by as much as 18 points with 17:18 to play in the second half, Minnesota rallied to eight points with 8:46 left. That’s when Florida’s defense stepped up and Minnesota hit a drought. Gopher guard Andre Hollins picked up his fourth foul and could not score another field goal for almost six minutes.

That allowed Florida to stave off Minnesota and expand the lead before a three-pointer from guard Mike Rosario put a nail in the coffin with 3:18 to play and the lead at 17 points. Rosario finished with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Florida moves on to play the winner of Florida Gulf Coast and San Diego State, a game that is currently underway. Florida Gulf Coast has looked like the most confident team in this entire NCAA tournament, a team that came in as a No. 15 seed that had lost to Lipscomb twice this season. They have been fittingly dubbed “Dunk City” for their uptempo, athletic style of play. If the Eagles advance, Florida will have to use that signature pressure defense to contain point guard Brett Comer and forward Sherwood Brown.

If San Diego State advances, Jamaal Franklin will be the focus for Florida. His ability to get out in transition and work around the rim makes him one of the most versatile players in the Mountain West.

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Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_