ORLANDO — After a sluggish and somewhat puzzling performance against Albany to open its NCAA tournament, Billy Donovan wanted 40 minutes of defensive intensity from the Florida Gators in the Round of 32.
He got it and then some, as they turned up the pressure against Pittsburgh and cruised to a 61-45 victory at the Amway Center.
Florida advances to the South Regional semifinals in Memphis, where it will face the winner between No. 4 seed UCLA and No. 13 seed Stephen F. Austin. It's Florida's fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16.
BOX SCORE: Florida 61, Pittsburgh 45
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"I enjoy that we're here, that we have an opportunity to continue to play, but I'm not going to be satisfied until we reach our goal," senior forward Patric Young said. "There's so much potential in this team and greatness within us that if we go out and play like we did against Albany and allow a team to just take it from us we're cutting ourselves short. "
Regaining the effort and focus it lacked Thursday, Florida held Pitt to just one of its first 11 field goal attempts in the second half, extending a 27-22 lead to 13 points with 9:38 remaining.
That was far too much to overcome against the Gators, who smothered Pittsburgh's guards and forced them into backcourt turnovers, won 50-50 balls with regularity and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds. The Gators, who've now won 28 consecutive games, held the Panthers to 37% shooting and forced 11 turnovers.
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"People try to find something wrong with this team at 34-2, and there's not a whole lot wrong," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "They've got size, experience, they're old and you can see it in their bodies. We tried to go to the basket, and we just bounced off of them. They're big across the board, they've got size all the way through, and they use it."
Florida struggled offensively at times, making only five of 20 from three-point range, but got timely shots from senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who finished with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting.
Few turned out to be bigger than at the end of the first half, when Wilbekin buried a running three-pointer at the buzzer that probably should never have occurred because Pitt had two fouls to give.
That mistake blunted the Panthers' momentum to end the half after they had clawed back within two points.
"That was a big shot," Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith said. "Coach called 'Four flat' for Scottie to go get a shot, and he made it. He makes tough shots. That's what he does."
Wilbekin took over again after Pitt closed the gap to 49-41 with 5:33 remaining, scoring Florida's next four baskets — all late in the shot clock — to prevent any late push.
"He got in the lane," Dixon said. "We handled the first ball screen, the second ball screen, but it just became a struggle for us because of our offense. We weren't scoring, so we had to get a stop every time. He played really well and we didn't do a good job on him, but he's done that all year long."
Pitt finishes the season 26-10.
For Florida, it was the kind of across-the-board effort Donovan hopes can lead his team back to the Final Four for the first time since winning the championship in 2007.
"As a coach you want to play to your identity and who you've been the entire year, and I didn't feel like we did that (against Albany)," Donovan said. "That's why I was disappointed. It's very easy to say, OK, win, survive, move on, everything's OK. But I saw things inside of our team I just didn't like. I wanted to make sure they understood that, and we got back to who we were."
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