Mar 24, 2013; Austin, TX, USA; Florida Gators cheerleaders and mascot perform during the game against Minnesota Golden Gophers in the third round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at Frank Erwin Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA Tournament: Florida Eliminates Minnesota, 78-64

Riding one of the most impressive offensive halves of the entire tournament, the Florida Gators used their “cruise control” in the second half, and outlasted a mild charge from Minnesota for a 78-64 win. In the first half, Florida shot the lights out, shooting 65% (15 for 23) from the field, 50% (7 for 14) from three-point distance, and sporting a 27-5 mid-half run to grab a 22-point lead. The one “blemish” on the record of Florida in the period was their 9 turnovers, but the shooting was so spectacular from guys like Mike Rosario (17 points, 4 threes in the half) and Erik Murphy (15 points, 5-7 FG in the half) that it was easy to overcome.

The Gators entered the game with a 19-0 mark when scoring 70+ points, and with a 48-point 1st half, they put themselves in prime position. However, it wasn’t without a challenge from Minnesota, as the Gophers emerged from the locker room with a 19-5 run, and they mounted a charge to within 8 points (at 60-52) before failing to complete the comeback.

[RELATEDDownload the updated 2013 NCAA bracket here]

Minnesota will be kicking themselves for their first-half defensive performance in this one, but they certainly played hard for the duration of 40 minutes. Andre Hollins led the way with 25 points, including a staggering 6-for-10 from three-point land, and when he was on the court, they were a completely different team. With that said, he picked up his 4th foul mid-way through the 2nd half, and that not-so-coincidentally led to Florida’s final push to the comfortable winning margin. It was a lackluster performance for Minnesota’s most high-profile player, as Trevor Mbakwe ended his career with a 3-for-7 shooting night that resulted in just 11 points.

Florida’s balanced offensive attack did them wonders in this game, but they were undisputedly led by the play of Mike Rosario. The senior guard (mentioned for his stellar first-half play above) was their primary scorer on the night, putting up 26 points on 8-for-12 shooting including 6-for-9 from downtown. It was all the more impressive for Florida that they were able to generate such efficient offense as their big-time, back-to-the-basket scorer (Patric Young) didn’t convert a single field goal on the night. The Gators used their 7-man rotation perfectly, and reminded everyone why they are the darlings of the advanced statistical community.

Could this be the final game at Minnesota for head coach Tubby Smith? There are rumors swirling around Tubby’s job status, and no one truly knows the mindset of the powers-that-be in Minnesota. With that said, I thought Tubby did a tremendous job with this group, taking them to the second-round of the tournament before running into a top-10 team buzzsaw. They didn’t embarrass themselves in any way here, and he should be employed for next season.

The big knock on Florida coming into the tournament was the fact that they haven’t won a single game by single-digits this season (and they still haven’t), but there is an argument that if you win every game by double-digits (as they did here), it won’t matter. The Gators will take on the FGCU/San Diego State winner in the Sweet 16, and they’ll be a heavy favorite when the set foot on the court in Arlington, Texas.

Be sure to stay tuned to FanSided.com throughout the entire tournament as we keep you up to date with the latest results.

Tags: 2013 NCAA Tournament Basketball Florida Gators March Madness Minnesota Golden Gophers

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