ORLANDO — The NCAA Tournament upset virus didn’t go airborne as far as central Florida.

After Harvard beat Cincinnati in Spokane, Wash., and Dayton toppled Ohio State in Buffalo earlier in the day, the University of Florida faced an Albany team that was able to strip aside the vast gulf between a No. 1 seed and a No. 16 seed for the better part of 25 minutes on Thursday at the Amway Center.

However, the Gators pulled away from a 39-39 tie with 14:32 left in the game and went on to beat the Great Danes 67-55 in a second-round South Regional game in front of 16,074.

Florida (33-2), which won its 27th game in a row, earned a date at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday against eighth-seeded Pittsburgh, 77-48 winners over Colorado. The Panthers improved to 26-9 and won an NCAA Tournament game by the widest margin in school history.

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The Gators’ opening victory was far from the breeze usually associated with No. 1 vs. 16 in the tournament. Since the NCAA went to a field of 64 in 1985, no 16th seed has won a game.

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Albany (19-15) skipped the history lesson ... for most of the game, at least. The Danes had an early 7-3 edge and stayed resilient as the lead changed hands 11 times in the first half.

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“It didn’t matter what is says on the front of the jersey,” said Danes guard D.J. Evans, a 5-foot-9 dynamo who scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down seven rebounds. “We had to go out and play the game. It’s a good feeling.”

Albany coach Will Brown pointed out that his team played its third game since Sunday, which included the America East championship game and a first-round game on Tuesday, a 71-64 victory over Mount St. Mary’s.

“Three games in six days, against arguably the best team in the country ... it was a tremendous effort,” he said. “We really challenged them tonight.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan took the blame for his team’s sleepwalk through the first half.

“As a head coach, it’s my job to get them ready,” he said.

Of course the Gators wore Albany down. After the final tie, UF outscored the Danes 28-16 for the rest of the game as the combination of size, speed and bench strength was too much for the Danes. Brown had to play four of his five starters for at least 37 minutes, including guard Peter Hooley, who never came out.

The Gators’ bench outscored Albany 26-2, with all of the bench points coming from Dorian Finney-Smith (16) and Kasey Hill (10). The two combined to shoot 9-of-14.

“There’s strength in numbers and we had the numbers,” said center Patric Young of Jacksonville, who had his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Florida didn’t have a bad offensive game, shooting 51 percent and making 78 percent of its foul shots (14-of-18) after a dismal performance at the line in last week’s SEC Tournament.

Casey Prather (16 points) and Scottie Wilbekin (10) gave Florida five players in double figures.

But Donovan was unhappiest with the cornerstone of his team: defense. Albany made 12 of its first 18 shots.

“Offensively, we were fine,” he said. “Today, we were not a good defensive team.”

Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362


Men's College Basketball