Tampa Bay Sports Day

NCAA: Florida Gators Stifle Virginia Cavs to Advance

ORLANDO, Fla. — Justin Leon and Devin Robinson hit big shot after big shot to help Florida find cracks in the top scoring defense in the country.

The Gators then turned on their own stifling defense to earn a trip to the Sweet 16.

Playing maybe its most complete game of the season, fourth-seeded Florida dismantled fifth-seeded Virginia during a dominant 65-39 victory Saturday night at Amway Center.

The Gators (26-8) advanced to the Sweet 16 to face No. 8 Wisconsin next Friday at Madison Square Garden.

“That’s about as well as we’ve played defensively,” Gators coach Mike White said. “We put a lot of it together tonight. I’m really proud of the defensive effort, the focus, the lock-in. Especially when we got up, I don’t know, say, 16, we didn’t have a drop-off, and we’ve had that four or five times this year. We didn’t have it tonight.”

Robinson (14 points and 11 rebounds) and Leon (14 points and 10 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles against a Virginia defense that came in allowing just 56.1 points per game.

By the end of the night, it was Florida’s defense that earned all of the accolades while setting a season low in points allowed.

The Gators held the Cavaliers (23-11) to a season-low 17 points in the first half and never relented after using a 12-0 run to take a 31-17 lead into halftime.

Leon was the catalyst of the surge, doing a little bit of everything in his breakout game of the tournament. He hit a layup and drew a foul, connected on a pair of free throws and then buried a 3-pointer.

The senior forward continued his impressive performance by making consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half, the second of which put the Gators ahead 40-17 with 17:39 remaining.

“We just had to get them uncomfortable and play our tempo,” Robinson said. “We knew if we played at their methodical tempo, it would have been a tough game for us. We just tried to stay aggressive on defense and get in transition as best we can, and that turned to great offense.”

With the Gators cruising, the only question for most of the second half was how ugly it would get for the Cavaliers, whose season came to a staggering end.

London Perrantes, who led a gritty comeback win Thursday with 24 points against UNC Wilmington, finished with six on 2-of-12 shooting. Marial Shayok, who had 23 in the first round, was held to seven as no Virginia player hit double figures in scoring.

Overall, the Cavaliers shot just 16 of 54 from the field (29.6 percent), including 1 of 15 from behind the arc. The Gators led by as many as 29 points with 4:41 remaining.

“You saw a really good defensive team play against a team that was really struggling offensively,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “But you can see why they’re good — their quickness, their athleticism. The thing that was frustrating is we really accomplished a lot this year. To end that way is obviously what really stings. It really does.”

NOTES: Virginia G London Perrantes became the first player in program history to play in an NCAA Tournament game in four straight seasons.  The Cavaliers only managed to get to the free throw line seven times, making six of their attempts. … Florida G KeVaughn Allen struggled once again. After being held to seven points on 1-of-11 shooting against East Tennessee State, Allen scored four points on 2-of-10 shooting. … The Gators outscored the Cavaliers 23-10 on bench points.