Gators suffocate Panthers to Sweet 16

Two solid defensive teams are not going to make anything easy for either team to score, let alone pull away.

As much as a 10-point game could be considered a blowout, Florida did that in suffocating Pittsburgh’s offense and coasting to a victory and the Sweet Sixteen with a 61-45 win at Amway Center on Saturday.

Scottie Wilbekin made play after play in the second half to keep the Panthers far away from the lead. He came off and around screens leading him toward the basket as the Gators finally cracked the Panthers defense. A solid effort inside from Patric Young — a beast of a post player few teams can handle — also paced the Gators to a victory despite shooting less than 40 percent for most of the game.

Wilbekin scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half to lead the Gators to the victory, knifing his way through the lane and helping Florida pick up its pace in a grind-it-out game.

Tournament Moment

Patric Young sent Twitter buzzing when he slammed an alley-oop over a late rotating Talib Zana. The play gave the Gators a 10-point lead midway through the second half and sent the highly partisan Amway Center crowd into a tizzy. The real play that should be worth your attention though came on the other end of the court before Young’s big slam. Scottie Wilbekin chased down a tipped rebound toward the mid court line and jumped to save himself from going out of bounds. His pass found Casey Prather igniting the fast break and the rest was history.

Xs and Os

Florida was struggling to score all game and was missing plenty of open shots. To put the Panthers away, Billy Donovan had to get his guards to the basket to kick back out. He accomplished this feat by putting in some interesting wheel actions to spring Wilbekin with some momentum toward the hoop. What would happen is Wilbekin would come around a screen and receive a handoff from Patric Young, keeping his momentum moving toward the basket. He would then twist and turn his way toward the basket and find a way to put the ball in. He did this on a couple consecutive possessions to help Florida ice the game.

One more Xs and Os note. Billy Donovan noted in his postgame press conference that Pittsburgh is very difficult to beat side to side and so he instructed his offense to try to attack the defense through the lane using high-low dump downs and plays that would get the team moving north and south to prevent Pittsburgh from setting up its double teams.


“Honestly, it just happened. Our offense isn’t really designed for one player to do something. But the ball was in my hands in late clock situations and I was able to get down the lane. I think with Frazier spacing, I think we did a good job having good spacing, so I was able to finish the play.”

-Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin

“I feel like we had some great looks. I know myself, I missed a lot of shots I normally make. Today, the numbers may indicate that they did a great job on defense. But I feel like we missed a lot of open shots.”

-Pittsburgh forward Michael Young

Game Notes

–The Gators ended up shooting 43.1 percent and just 5 for 20 from beyond the 3-point line. The Panthers were not much better with 37.3 percent shooting and 4 for 17 from beyond the arc. The Panthers just could not find anything easy against the Gators’ defense. It is a tough puzzle for any offense to try and crack. Pittsburgh’s final offensive rating was 82.7 however as they just never could open the door.

–Panthers’ seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna ended their careers on disappointing notes. Patters scored eight points to go with eight rebounds. Zanna had a team-high 10 points to go with six rebounds.

–New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek was in attendance as was Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily