NCAA News Wire

Wilbekin carries Florida to Sweet 16

We independently review everything we recommend based on our strict editorial guidelines. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More

ORLANDO, Fla. — Scottie Wilbekin is still looking for some respect nationally and if he continues to carry the top-seeded Florida Gators through the NCAA Tournament, he’s going to get it.

Wilbekin scored 13 of his 21 points in the last eight minutes to help the Gators put away a 61-45 victory over No. 9-seeded Pittsburgh in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Arena.

The Gators move on to the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season.

“We knew it was going to be a challenging, physical game and it was,” Florida Coach Billy Donovan said. “Scottie made some great things happen for us at the end of the game.”

Added Wilbekin’s teammate Dorian Finney-Smith: “It’s great to see the rest of the country get exposed to the kind of talent and player Scottie is.

“That run he had in the second half was the kind of leader he’s been for us all season. Scottie just kept making big plays that kept the momentum on our side.”

That included a running 3-pointer that beat the buzzer at the end of the first half and gave the Gators more than the 27-22 advantage the scoreboard showed.

“You could see their heads drop after Scottie hit that one,” Gators center Patric Young said. “I’ve been on the other end of that and know there is a little letdown when you’ve battled the whole way and some guy hits one at the buzzer. I know it really gave us a lift.”

Young and forward Will Yeguete were also big factors in the second half when Florida put some distance between themselves and Pitt.

Young was shut out in the first half, but finished with seven points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Yegete had eight points and four rebounds, but was a constant presence anytime Pitt tried to get the ball in the paint.

“Will is the epitome of a guy that it’s hard to have an appreciation for what he does when all you do is look at the stat sheet,” Donovan said.

“What he does won’t make headlines, but he really impacts the game for us in a positive way.”

Pitt couldn’t get much offense inside or out.

Forward Talib Zanna led Pittsburgh with 10 points, but was the only Panther (25-6) to reach double figures against a dominating defensive effort by the Gators, who limited Pitt to 37.3 percent shooting for the game.

The Panthers’ starting guards, Cameron Wright and James Robinson, were a combined 3-for-15 from the field and totaled eight points.

Pitt also gave up 14 offensive rebounds, allowing Florida to extend a lot of possessions, particularly in the second half.

“Simply put, I was extremely disappointed in how we played,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Florida is the most physical team we played all season and we didn’t execute offensively.

“Our defense wasn’t good enough. We were getting beat on the glass from the first play of the game and to me that was the biggest issue. The game just got away from us.”

Wilbekin started his game-ending run with a 3-pointer, the only shot the Gators made shot from outside the paint in the second half, to give Florida a 45-31 lead.

The Gators’ senior point guard then concentrated on drives to the basket, including four straight layups, most with the shot clock about to expire, to keep Pitt from gaining any momentum.

“The numbers don’t lie, they outplayed us,” Zanna said. “They got to the loose balls and we just didn’t get it done.”

Zanna got the first basket of the second half for Pitt, but the Gators responded with a 7-0 run to go ahead, 34-24.

Young, who was 0-for-5 in the first half, had five of those points, including a thunderous dunk off a feed from forward Casey Prather that made it 34-24 with 16:01 left in the game.

The Gator defense took Pitt’s starting backcourt of James Robinson and Cameron Wright completely out of the game for the first 30 minutes. They were a combined 0-for-11 with four turnovers and four assists before Robinson finally got on the board with a free throw with 10:50