Gators fall in the Elite 8 again

Published On: Mar 31 2013 04:32:23 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 31 2013 07:10:47 PM EDT

ARLINGTON, Texas -

Erik Murphy never took his eyes off the floor in the locker room, his droopy shoulders weighed down by three straight losses just one step shy of the Final Four.
   
This one might have been the worst.
   
Florida's senior scoring leader missed 11 shots in his first scoreless game since his sophomore year, and Michigan - led by Big Ten player of the year Trey Burke and sharp-shooting freshman guard Nik Stauskas - scored the game's first 13 points in a 79-59 rout in the South Regional final Sunday.
   
"Just missed shots," Murphy said, barely loud enough to be heard, and answering in short spurts. "Our defense was bad."
   
The third-seeded Gators (29-8) overcame a slow start in a 62-50 regional semifinal victory against Florida Gulf Coast.
   
No such luck against Big Blue.
   
Michigan ran out to a 23-5 lead 9 minutes in and led 41-17 after one of six 3-pointers from Stauskas, who was perfect from long range and led the Wolverines with 22 points.
   
Despite being the only team to make it to a regional final in each of the last three seasons, the Gators haven't been to the Final Four since winning consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007.
   
Murphy and Kenny Boynton, the four-year seniors who came in not long after those titles, will leave without one of their own. They were part of the only Gators class to win consecutive outright regular-season Southeastern Conference championships, but they weren't able to win the biggest games.
   
Boynton and Will Yeguete had 13 points apiece for Florida, which shot 41 percent and let Michigan (30-7) go 10 of 19 from 3-point range.
   
"We've almost become numb to it now," junior center Patric Young said. "Been here before. I just really wish we were out there cutting the nets down."
   
The only fight from the Gators came at the start of the second half, when they scored six straight points to get within 11. Florida had two chances to get the deficit to single digits, but Mike Rosario had a turnover and Murphy missed from point-blank range. He grabbed the rebound, but then Rosario missed a jumper.
   
The Gators were down 12 moments later when Michigan's Mitch McGary drove for a tough layup and Spike Albrecht stole the inbounds pass for another layup and a 54-38 lead.
   
"That is Spike," said Burke, a sophomore and the South Region's most outstanding player. "He sees certain things out on the court that a lot of players usually don't see."
   
Even with the brief rally, the story for the Gators was the early deficit.
   
After McGary started the scoring with a layup, Stauskas made a behind-the-back pass to McGary for a slam before making his first 3-pointer less than a half-minute after that.
   
Burke passed to McGary for a layup before driving for one of his own. McGary's jumper made it 13-0 only 3:05 into the game.
   
Stauskas, who was 2 of 12 from 3-point range the first three games of this NCAA tourney, was on target against the Gators.
   
The 6-foot-6 guard from Canada put the Wolverines up by 24 points with 4:08 left in the first half after two consecutive 3s from the left corner in a span of 27 seconds.
   
Like he did on all of his makes, Stauskas came back down the court with a smile on his face, sharing the moment with the Wolverines fans who made the trip to North Texas.
   
Florida missed its first seven shots before Yeguete made a layup more than 3½ minutes into the game.
   
"You can't stay in games like that when you're making dumb plays on offense in some instances and not making shots and they're playing unbelievable and knocking down shots and getting open shots," said Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, who was just 1 of 6 with team highs of seven assists, four turnovers and four steals. "It was just a bad setup."
   
Michigan reached the Final Four for the first time since consecutive national championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993, the freshman and sophomore seasons of the Fab Five - Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
   
"A lot of guys said we were really young and that we couldn't get here," said Burke, who had 15 points, seven assists and three steals. "We're here now and we still have unfinished business."
   
So does Murphy, but he doesn't get another chance to do anything about it. Twice he thought he had easy baskets in front of him only to have the shots blocked. He did lead the Gators with eight rebounds.
   
"Obviously Erik had a very, very difficult game," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We felt like there was a size advantage and we could get some stuff there. And he just never really could get it going."
   
Even with an 11-2 run late in the first half punctuated by Boynton's 3-pointer, the Gators were still down by 15 with a minute to go in the first half.
   
And the Wolverines were able to score even after it appeared that the half had ended; Burke was already heading off the court pumping his right arm toward the Michigan fans.
   
Stauskas was fouled on a 3-point attempt with .4 seconds left and, after officials reviewed the play, hit two free throws to give the Wolverines a 47-30 lead.
   
It was that kind of day for Michigan, and for Florida.
   

Comments

The views expressed below are not those of News4Jax or its affiliated companies. By clicking on "Post," you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Service and your comment is in compliance with such terms. Readers, please help keep this discussion respectful and on topic by flagging comments that are offensive or inappropriate (hover over the commenter's name and you'll see the flag option appear on right side of that line). And remember, respect goes both ways: Tolerance of others' opinions is important in a free discourse. If you're easily offended by strong opinions, you might skip reading comments entirely.

blog comments powered by Disqus