Devin Robinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth double-double of his career, and No. 4 seed Florida coasted past fifth-seeded Virginia 65-39 on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Justin Leon added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Gators (26-8), who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the 11th time in school history and fifth in the past seven years. They will play No. 8 seed Wisconsin in the East Regional in New York City on Friday.
They can thank stingy defense and a ridiculous run spanning halftime for this trip to Madison Square Garden.
Florida held Virginia (23-11) to a season-low 17 points in the first half and 30.2 percent shooting on the night. The turning point came late in the first half, when the Gators started a 21-0 run that was their most lopsided of the season.
Speedy guards Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza repeatedly broke down Virginia’s “pack line” defense, creating open looks for Leon and Robinson.
Coach Mike White’s team closed the first half with a 12-0 spurt and built a 14-point lead at the break. The Gators came out of the locker room with the same energy and effort, scoring nine consecutive points that included two 3-pointers from Leon.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett called timeout, but it was too little, too late.
The Gators were up 23 points against a team that has dealt with offensive challenges all season. It surely didn’t help that the Cavaliers played without forward Isaiah Wilkins, who missed the game while dealing with strep throat.
Wilkins leads the team in rebounds, blocks and steals, and Bennett called him the “heart and soul of our defense.” Without him, the Gators attacked the post regularly, with Leon and Robinson benefiting.
Leon made 4 of 8 shots, and Robinson, who had 24 points in the opening round, finished 5 of 8 from the field.
Here’s maybe the most promising part for Florida: Leading scorer KeVaughn Allen and SEC Sixth Man of the Year Canyon Barry were quiet again. Allen had four points on 2-of-10 shooting, and Barry finished with seven points during a 1-for-4 night.
Florida: The Gators, who were ticked off they were placed on upset alert during the NCAA selection show, proved their first-round win was no fluke. They might even be a handful moving forward because of their defensive prowess and number of scoring options.
Virginia: The Cavaliers were looking to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in the last four years, and the reason was obvious. Outsiders figured the Cavs would be doomed if London Perrantes and Marial Shayok stopped making shots, and they were. Perrantes was 2 of 12, and Shayok 2 of 9.
Perrantes chucked the ball at the scorer’s table in frustration in the second half, but avoided a technical foul.
Seldom-used center Gorjok Gak finished with six points and two rebounds in 10 minutes — his best outing of the season. Gak is starting to show he’s a viable option to help Florida deal with the loss of center John Egbunu (knee).