Florida Gators: Minnesota Golden Gophers


AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Rosario, he of the broken finger, bum ankle, tender back, nagging hip pointer and bad first NCAA tournament game, decided to put the hurt on someone else Sunday.

And, yes, there were tears involved. That's usually the case at this one-and-done point of the season. But third-seeded Florida and Rosario were feeling no pain as they wide-tooth grinned their way into the Sweet 16 after a 78-64 win over No. 11 seed Minnesota in the Frank Erwin Center.

Florida, which is in its third straight Sweet 16 for the first time in school history, will play 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.

"I told myself, 'I can't let my guys down,'" Rosario said. "I was beating myself up that I didn't bring the full Mike Rosario in the first game and I felt like had to come out the second game."

[+] EnlargeMike Rosario
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsAfter struggling in Florida's NCAA tournament opener, senior Mike Rosario shined against Minnesota.
He came out and stayed out. The senior guard scored 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting, with 17 of those points coming in the first half as Florida staked itself to a 23-point lead over the Gophers.

"When you shoot 6-of-9 [from behind the arc], even if you are by yourself that is pretty impressive," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "Those were really tough shots."

It wouldn't be Rosario if they weren't. He is a player more apt to struggle down the rocky road than stroll down the smooth path. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario has been a player and personality who has not exactly been at odds with Florida coach Billy Donovan in his Florida career but has not exactly been on the same wavelength, either. As a junior Donovan was pushing him through the injuries, letting him know what it meant to be a big-time player every night in a big-time program. And even in this, Rosario's senior season, Donovan has twice limited his minutes in the final weeks because of Rosario's failure to do the lithe, and essential, things on the court.

"There are times with Mike when he can come not focused and not be accountable and not be responsible in terms of doing the things he needs to do," Donovan said. "The reason our relationship is sometimes rocky is that I have held him to a higher standard."

Donovan, and everyone else, held Rosario in high esteem Sunday. Really there was no other place to put him. Even after the 17-point first half, Rosario, who has what is surely an infuriating ability to check out, stayed focused and nailed a 3-pointer that quelled a Minnesota run midway through the second half.

"I felt that every time I have an open look at it I'm going to take it," Rosario said. "And they were falling tonight."

That wasn't the case against Northwestern State on Friday. Rosario failed to box out on a play and because of that found himself on the bench for the majority of the game. Ditto with a few weeks ago against Kentucky when his carelessness pushed Donovan to the brink and Rosario right back to the bench.

But Rosario doesn't go to the bench to sulk.

"Mike will assume responsibility," Donovan said. "He is not a finger pointer and is not blaming other people. The best thing about Mike is that Mike lets me coach him. I am on him all the time a lot because I want him to be the best he can be on and off the floor."

Sunday Rosario was just that.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Minnesota Golden Gophers couldn't handle the pressure of the NCAA tournament, thanks in large part to the pressure applied by the Florida Gators as third-seeded Florida extended its defense and, as a direct result, its run in the NCAAs with a 78-64 win over the No. 11 Gophers at the Erwin Center Sunday.

Overview: Florida built a 23-point first-half lead behind its defense and prolific shooting, weathered a flurry of 3-pointers from Minnesota's Andre Hollins, and moved into the next round. The Gators were led by guard Mike Rosario (25 points) and forward Erik Murphy (15). That pair combined to score 24 of Florida's first 30 points and hit eight of their first nine shots. Hollins, who had 25 points, made a run midway through the second half to help the Gophers get within single digits a couple of times. But Florida and Rosario had the answer each and every time.

Turning point: Florida opted for a full-court defense early in the game and was able to not only fluster Minnesota's offense but also kick-start its own scorers. The Gators hit their first four shots and didn't cool off much from there as they went on to shoot 65 percent in the first half. Murphy and Rosario proved to be a prolific duo from beyond the arc as they combined to hit 10 of 14 3-pointers in the first half.

Key player: Rosario, who was benched during the Northwestern State game Friday because of a failure to block out, made sure he wouldn't be taken off the floor Sunday. The guard, who has averaged 12.2 points, had a game-high 17 in the first half on 71 percent shooting. He was a 44 percent shooter coming into the game.

Key stat: Minnesota had been dominating teams on the boards and finished the Big Ten season tied for first in rebounding margin with a 7.8 differential. Against Florida, the Gophers were unable to consistently get to the glass. The Gators had a 16-8 rebound margin in the first half. The Gators limited the Gophers to no second chance points while Florida had six in the first 20 minutes.

Next up: Florida advances to play the winner of the San Diego State-Florida Gulf Coast game in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.
MILWAUKEE -- Sophomore center Diamond Stone (Milwaukee/Dominican), the No. 1-ranked prospect in the ESPN 25, and his father, Bob, sat down Thursday evening to discuss how Stone's game is progressing and where they are in the recruiting process.

Not surprisingly for the top player nationally in his class, Stone has an elite offer list a mile long but has a plan and is executing it to perfection.

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