101°F
weather icon Clear

Seventh-seeded UNR bounced from NCAA Tournament

Updated March 21, 2019 - 7:28 pm

DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida was cruising toward a surprisingly easy victory over UNR in its opening NCAA Tournament game.

Then UNR furiously tried to stave off the upset with a frantic second-half push that fell just short. Florida nearly squandered a double-digit lead before finally stopping the comeback and closing out a 70-61 Thursday night victory in the West Region.

“I thought we were just watching the clock and hoping a little bit,” Florida coach Mike White said about UNR’s late push.

Andrew Nembhard, whose last-second shot beat LSU in the Southeastern Conference Tournament last week, drove to the basket for a layup with 1 ½ minutes left and Florida scored the last seven points after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack had rallied from down 18 to cut the deficit to just two points.

The Gators (20-15) were the third double-digit seed to win Thursday.

Kevarrius Hayes scored 16 points, Jalen Hudson added 15 and the 10th-seeded Gators won their tournament opener for the third straight year.

Cody Martin scored 23 points and twin brother Caleb Martin had 19 for the Wolf Pack (29-5). The two combined for 28 of their team’s 33 points in the second half as UNR rallied.

“They did a great job of speeding us up,” White said. “They made us play a little faster. Their run was fantastic. They were getting stops, playing with a crazy amount of energy. We did just enough. We were very fortunate to hold on.”

The Gators controlled the pace into the second half with their deliberate offense, often letting the shot clock run into single digits before shooting. The SEC’s top-rated defense clogged passing and driving lanes and contested almost every shot.

“We knew what they were going to do,” Caleb Martin said. “Unfortunately, we had a lot of mental breakdowns. We missed some crucial free throws and just didn’t get off to a good start.”

KeVaughn Allen made back-to-back shots to start a 12-0 run early in the second half that swelled the Gators’ lead to 51-33 with 14 minutes left.

The Wolf Pack began to bother Florida with their full-court press. After Caleb Martin stole the ball from Jalen Hudson in the backcourt and dunked, it was 58-51 with 6 minutes to play. Caleb Martin’s two free throws made it 63-61 with 2:02 left, but UNR could get no closer.

“They really sped us up,” Hudson said. “We were playing too fast and making jump passes, which aren’t allowed here. With three or four minutes left in the game we were able to snap back in get into our rhythm.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators can count on Nembhard in the postseason. He had only eight points against UNR, but he came up big when needed and stemmed the Wolf Pack’s comeback with a dazzling drive to the basket against Jazz Johnson.

UNR: The Wolf Pack made a run to the Sweet 16 last year after overcoming deficits of 14 points to beat Texas in overtime and 22 to beat Cincinnati. They couldn’t finish their comeback against Florida and finish the year with a program record-tying 29 wins.

HE SAID IT

“We just couldn’t get over the hump against a team that slows it down. This one will hurt.” — Cody Martin.

UP NEXT

Florida: The Gators play No. 2 seed Michigan or No. 15 Montana on Saturday.

UNR: The Wolf Pack go into next season off a two-year stretch of 58 wins, the best in school history.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Virginia-Texas Tech title game just what the NCAA needed

Redemption ultimately came for the Cavaliers, who officially exorcised all their demons with a 85-77 victory in overtime before 72,062 at U.S. Bank Stadium, completing arguably one the most implausible 12-month comebacks in the event’s history.

Virginia wins national title with 85-77 OT win over Texas Tech

Led by De’Andre Hunter and his NBA-ready game, Virginia held off a tenacious Texas Tech team for an 85-77 overtime win — a scintillating victory that came 388 days after a crushing setback that might have sunk a lesser team for years.

Baylor holds off Notre Dame 82-81 for women’s title

Baylor recovered after blowing a 17-point lead and losing a star player, beating Notre Dame 82-81 for the NCAA women’s basketball championship Sunday night when 2018 tournament hero Arike Ogunbowale missed a foul shot in the final seconds.

Texas Tech reaches national final from deep in the dirt

Matt Mooney plays in the dirt. He was digging in it long before arriving to Lubbock, Tex., before awaiting the biggest basketball game of his life, a One Shining Moment most only dream about but never experience.