See ya later, Gators|
Villanova whips Florida, faces top-seed N.C. next
By Fred Goodall
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE — When it was over, a jubilant Allan Ray clutched his jersey and extended the word Villanova toward an appreciative crowd chanting "Sweet 16" and "We want N.C."
The Wildcats will indeed get North Carolina.
AP Photo by Wilfredo Lee|
Villanova's Mike Nardi (12) and Randy Foye celebrate after the Wildcats whipped the Florida Gators 76-65 in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday.
Stirring memories of the school's improbable run to its only national title 20 years ago, fifth-seeded Villanova got a huge performance from backup center Jason Fraser and humbled fourth-seeded Florida 76-65 Sunday in the second round of the Syracuse Regional.
With star Curtis Sumpter sitting out much of the game with an injury and Ray, the team's leading scorer, struggling, Fraser, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry led the Wildcats into the round of 16 for the first time since 1988 — where they will face top-seed North Carolina.
"Curtis Sumpter is really our leader. He's the rock," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "For him to go down and all these guys step up, it's incredible."
Twenty years ago, Villanova pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history when the Wildcats beat Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown for the NCAA title.
And with the star of that team — Ed Pinckney — on the bench as an assistant coach, the Wildcats look capable of getting back to the Final Four.
Fraser had 21 points and 15 rebounds. Foye scored 18 and Lowry contributed 15 off the bench to pick up the slack for Ray and Sumpter, who left the game after scoring eight early points and twice tumbling to the court and clutching his left knee.
Sumpter's status for the next round is uncertain.
"He hasn't had any X-rays or anything, so we don't know how serious it is," Wright said.
Ray went 0-for-6 from the field, but made 7-of-8 free throws in the final 4:03 to help Villanova (24-7) pull away after wasting most of a 14-point first-half lead. Fraser had nine offensive rebounds, shot 5-for-9 and was a surprising 11-of-17 from the foul line.
"You know the world's upside down when we're substituting Jason at the end to shoot free throws," Wright said.
Florida closed to 44-43 early in the second half, then saw its chances of getting past the second round for the first time since 2000 slip away during a seven-minute scoring drought that followed Matt Walsh's first basket.
The Gators (24-8) were held to 38.5 shooting and got little offensive support for David Lee, who did his best to keep them in the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Walsh finished with 12 points, but was 4 for 13 after a horrible shooting performance in the first round. Anthony Roberson struggled for the second straight game, too, going 1-for-8 and scoring five.
"I knocked down my first 3-pointer and after that took three or four more, and they never did fall for me," Roberson said. "That's all I can say. Shots that usually go down for me didn't go down."
Roberson and Walsh were a combined 6 for 28 in Florida's first-round win over Ohio, but promised to redeem themselves.
It didn't happen.
Nor did the Gators play effective defense after holding opponents to just over 57 points a game during an eight-game winning streak.
"We didn't stick to our trademark. We didn't defend and rebound," Florida's Adrian Moss said. "In a tournament like this, you can't depend on offense to win it."
Villanova looked like the superior team from the start, easily handling the Gators' half-court trapping defense and taking command with a 20-3 run that helped the Wildcats to a 39-32 halftime lead.
Roberson wasn't a factor after making his first shot — a long 3-pointer. Walsh went scoreless until his 3-pointer drew the Gators within 44-43 with 16:16 to go.
Just as surprising were Ray's troubles.
The Villanova star went 1 for 13 and had four points in the Wildcats' first-round victory over New Mexico.
Men's NCAA tournament scores
Sunday's second-round games
Oklahoma State 85, Southern Illinois 77
North Carolina State 65, Connecticut 62
Villanova 76, Florida 65
Wisconsin 71, Bucknell 62
Michigan State 72, Vermont 61
Duke 63, Mississippi State 55
Louisville 76, Georgia Tech 54
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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