Gators advance to their 10th Sweet 16 in program history

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Ty Wright / Valencia Voice

Florida Gators guard, Scottie Wilbekin led all scorers with 21 points in Saturday's third round game against Pitt.

ORLANDO — Scottie Wilbekin scored 21 points while helping lead the Florida Gators to their 10th Sweet 16 by defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 61-45 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at the Amway Center.

The No. 1 overall seed Gators came into the game after facing a scare against Albany on Wednesday, but Florida’s defense made sure that Pitt didn’t send the Gator faithful home unhappy.

“We just wanted to come out and not let them play harder than us,” said Wilbekin following the win. “And I think we did a good job of having our energy up at the start of the game.”

Florida held Pittsburgh’s offense to 37.3 percent shooting from the field for the game, while also outscoring the Panthers 36-24 in the paint.

“I thought a big key for us was at least we out-rebounded them and we held them on the glass,” said Gators head coach Billy Donovan after the game. “We didn’t give up a lot of offensive rebounds.”

The Gators went on a 12-7 run during the final 6:14 of the first half to go into halftime with a 27-22  lead over Pitt. The run was culminated when Wilbekin hit a buzzer beating 3-point before going into the locker room.

Both teams struggled offensively during the opening 9 minutes of the second half, with only 13 points being scored between the two teams during that time.

Florida finished the game by going on a 12-4 run during the final 5 minutes of the game, to secure not only the 61-45 victory, but the 10th Sweet 16 appearance in the basketball program’s history. It also marks the fourth year in a row that the Gators have made it to the Sweet 16.

Gators’ senior Patric Young finished the game with seven points and eight rebounds, while fellow senior Will Yeguete had eight points and four rebounds of his own.

“I was just trying to be aggressive defensively,” said Yeguete. “I knew they were going to be a really good team.”

With the win Florida’s senior class of Young, Welbekin, Yeguete and Casey Prather became the winningest senior class in program history.

The Gators will now return to Gainesville, before traveling to Memphis, Tenn., where they will take on the winner of Stephen F. Austin/UCLA on Thursday, March 27 in the Sweet 16.