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Robinson-led Florida stymies East Tennessee State

Robinson-led Florida stymies East Tennessee State
Published On: Thu, Mar 16
Dec 19, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers forward Willie Carmichael III (24) dunks during the game against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee won, 61-58. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida forward Devin Robinson threw down two dunks before halftime and nailed a couple of 3-pointers after it.

His big day was enough to stave off an East Tennessee State team that provided plenty of trouble in between.

Robinson scored a game-high 24 points and added seven rebounds to help the fourth-seeded Gators eventually dispatch the No. 13 seed Buccaneers and move on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament's East Regional with an 80-65 victory Thursday at the Amway Center.

Florida will face No. 5 seed Virginia, which beat UNC Wilmington 76-71 earlier in the day, on Saturday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

"My team, we were just trying to play defense, and I just tried to beat everybody down the court," Robinson said. "Transition defense is one of their emphases and what they need to work on. So I just try to run as hard and play as hard as I can, and my teammates found me when I did."

While it never felt like the Gators (25-8) were in any serious trouble against the Buccaneers (27-8), they appeared frustrated and maybe a bit flustered during the first half before finding a rhythm.

Florida trailed 37-35 in the early minutes of the second half before forward Justin Leon nailed a 3-pointer. Robinson then added two and leading scorer KeVaughn Allen, to that point without a field goal, sank one of his own. That hot stretch put the Gators up 47-39 and the Buccaneers never got back in the game.

A thunderous slam by forward Kevarrius Hayes with 8:35 remaining in the second half had Florida off and running for good in front of a crowd that felt almost like home for the Gators, whose campus is about two hours away.

"The main thing with our rhythm was just getting stops defensively," said Canyon Barry, who was part of a Gators effort that turned 17 Buccaneers turnovers into 20 points. "We locked in defensively, and, obviously, making shots helps, too."

Chris Chiozza (five rebounds, three assists) and Kasey Hill (six rebounds, five assists) finished with 14 points apiece for the Gators.

Allen, who entered as the team's leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, finished with seven points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field in one of his worst games of the season. It will be critical he plays better against the Cavaliers, whose defense struggled to contain UNC Wilmington's 3-point shooters.

"The thing I like about KeVaughn is he goes 1-for-11 instead of 1-for-4," Gators coach Mike White said. "He stayed aggressive. That's what I ask him to do."

While Florida's leading scorer was off his game, East Tennessee State's star played well despite getting little help. T.J. Cromer, who willed the Buccaneers into the NCAA Tournament with a historic showing in the Southern Conference tournament, finished with a team-high 19 points.

David Burrell had 11 points and was the only other East Tennessee State player to hit double figures.

"They're just a great team, well-coached team," Cromer said. "They made a lot of shots, and they bothered us with their length. Like I said, just a great and well-coached team."

Florida got off to a promising start early in the first half using its transition offense.

The Gators turned a missed shot by the Buccaneers into an emphatic dunk by Robinson, who leaked behind the defense. Robinson's slam put Florida up 14-6 fewer than five minutes into the game.

However, the Buccaneers were effective in the half-court and flustered the Gators into several turnovers after their quick start. Barry had multiple passes go off his hands and out of bounds, a microcosm for a Florida offense that has been clunky at times this season and certainly was during stretches against the Buccaneers.

While pleased with a victory, the Gators recognize there is plenty of improvement to be made.

"We still got a lot more basketball to be played," Robinson said. "It feels good to get this win, but we've still got to get back to watching film tonight and be ready to play Saturday."

NOTES: Gators F Gorjok Gak, who entered the game just 1 of 6 from the foul line, had an embarrassing trip there in the first half. Gak shot an air ball on the first attempt and missed his second badly as well. The freshman did give Florida some important minutes inside. ... Florida was 1 of 10 from behind the 3-point line in the first half and finished 7 for 22. ... The Buccaneers did not attempt a free throw or have any fast-break points during the first half. ... G Desonta Bradford, who came into the game second on East Tennessee State in scoring, finished with four points on 2-of-7 shooting frm the field.

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DeVon Walker G
John Egbunu C
Dorian Finney-Smith F
Alex Murphy F
Devin Robinson F
Chris Chiozza G
Schuyler Rimmer F
Justin Leon F
Kasey Hill G
Lexx Edwards G
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