College Sports

Nevada couldn’t do Nevada things against this Florida Gators defense

Florida forward Keyontae Johnson (11) celebrates with teammates after making a basket during a first round men’s college basketball game against Nevada in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Florida forward Keyontae Johnson (11) celebrates with teammates after making a basket during a first round men’s college basketball game against Nevada in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP

There was no repeat of a deep Nevada tournament run equipped with second-half comebacks.

The Florida Gators, despite nearly blowing an 18-point lead, didn’t fully crack when the Wolfpack came charging in the last 20 minutes.

UF held on for a 70-61 victory to advance to the West region’s second round in Des Moines, Iowa against the winner of No. 2-seeded Michigan and No. 15-seeded Montana.

“My heart’s still racing,” UF coach Mike White said on TNT shortly after the Gators’ victory. “My brain is fried. These guys continue to play with poise.”

Kevarrius Hayes was a key reason for the Gators keeping their poise. The senior from Live Oak, Florida, scored five of his 16 points in the final five minutes before fouling out.

UF built an 18-point lead early into the second half, before Nevada began attempting a comeback like it did during its deep tournament run in 2018.

The Gators defense, which flummoxed Nevada in the first half to give UF a nine-point lead at the break, forced errant shots in the final minutes to preserve the win.

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.
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