Florida ends NSU Cinderella run
After authoring one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, the magic ran out for the Norfolk State men’s basketball team on Sunday evening. Led by Kenny Boynton’s 20 points, No. 7 seed Florida placed five players in double figures and shot 53 percent from the floor to dispatch the 1Fifth-seeded Spartans 84-50 in an NCAA Tournament third-round game at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
The Spartans saw their historic season end at 26-10, while the Gators (25-10) advance to a Sweet 16 game against No. 3 Marquette on Thursday in Phoenix.
NSU led 6-4 at the 16:47 mark after a three-point play by Rodney McCauley. But the Gators went on a 25-0 run over the next seven-plus minutes to take control. NSU missed 10 straight shots from the floor and 15 of its first 17 while often settling for outside shots against the Florida defense. The Gators made four 3-pointers in their run, and when Patric Young hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line with 9:46 remaining in the half, the Gators led 29-6.
Pendarvis Williams stopped the bleeding momentarily with a short jumper, but the Gators didn’t back off. They hit 7-of-16 (44 percent) from behind the 3-point arc in the half. Mike Rosario hit the last of the seven 3-pointers with three seconds left on the clock to give the Gators a 47-19 lead going into the half. The 28-point lead was UF’s biggest of the half.
The Florida backcourt of Boynton and Erving Walker combined for 21 points on 6-of-10 field goal attempts in the half and were two of the five Gators to make triples in the half. UF also held a 27-13 rebounding edge, grabbing as many offensive boards as NSU had on the defensive end (eight) in the first 20 minutes.
Try as they did, the Spartans couldn’t get close than 25 in the second half. That came after A.J. Rogers and Chris McEachin each hit a pair of free throws following a Florida personal foul and a technical on Boynton. That drew NSU within 59-34 with 12:38 left. But Young swung the momentum back into the Gators’ favor with a tip-dunk, and the UF lead swelled to as many as 36 points later in the stanza.
Walker scored 15 points, Bradley Beal had 14, Rosario 12 and Erik Murphy 10 for Florida, which hit 10-of-28 (36 percent) from 3-point range and 72 percent (18-of-25) from the foul line. Beal led all players with nine rebounds, while Boynton and Murphy chipped in with eight apiece.
Senior forward Marcos Tamares led NSU with 12 points and was the only Spartan in double figures. Rogers was the next-highest scorer, with seven points off the bench. Tamares and Rob Johnson had five rebounds apiece to lead the squad, which got outrebounded 48-31. The Spartans shot just 27 percent from the floor (18-of-66) and 17 percent (4-of-24) from 3-point range.
Kyle O’Quinn, one of the brightest stars from the tourney’s early rounds after his 26-point, 14-rebound outing in the win over No. 2 seed Missouri, was saddled with foul trouble in both halves and finished his final game as a Spartan with four points and three rebounds.
Despite the loss, NSU shattered its Division I record for wins in a season, compiling 26 victories in the 2011-12 campaign while winning its first-ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and NCAA Tournament game. The last Spartan team with more wins was the 1994-95 team that finished 27-6 on the way to the Division II Final Four. The previous NSU D-I record was 16, set in 2007-08 – Anthony Evans’ first year as Spartans’ coach. NSU will go down as the fifth team in NCAA Division I history to notch a 15-over-2 upset.
O’Quinn finished his career as NSU’s all-time career leader in blocks (283). He is sixth all-time in rebounds (1,092) and 1Fifth in scoring (1,607). O’Quinn is one of just seven players in school history to notch at least 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds and is the only player to do it in NSU’s Division I era (since 1997-98).