Benches could prove to be the difference

  • Updated: March 28, 2014 - 11:45 PM

Florida’s seniors have led the way all season, but the Gators’ young bench could be the key to reaching the Final Four.

The No. 11 Dayton Flyers will come at the No. 1 Gators in waves Saturday, unleashing as many as a dozen players to push the pace and create havoc.

Coach Archie Miller’s formula has carried the school to the cusp of its first Final Four since 1967. The Flyers’ playing style has the attention of the Gators, even though they are 10-point favorites.

“We’re playing a dangerous team,” UF senior center Patric Young said. “They earned their spot to be here. They were the best team to make this spot.

“Hopefully we can be the best team tomorrow.”

Winners of 29 consecutive games, the Gators (35-2) are even better when their bench gets involved.

Gators’ reserves scored 23 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 14 assists during Thursday night’s 79-68 victory against UCLA in the Sweet 16.

Backup by point guard Kasey Hill had 10 assists to join Magic Johnson, Keith Gatlin and Jason Kidd as one of only freshmen with as many dishes in the Sweet 16. Freshman Chris Walker, a 6-10 forward, had seven points and three rebounds in six minutes.

“Whenever we can get games like that from those guys, it’s fun to watch,” senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said.

Nine players played double-digits minutes and scored during the Flyers’ 60-59 upset of Ohio State in the opening round.

“Sacrifice is part of winning,” leading scorer Jordan Siebert said of the Flyers’ depth. “Anybody is able to hit a game winner. Anybody is able to take the last shot. Anybody is able to make the big play.”

Stat of the day

In honor of the bluegrass state, STATS offers handicappers this tip: Based on the experience level of the teams, each of Friday’s four regional semifinals was a potential mismatch. Looking at total tournament man-games on each team’s roster, the matchups broke down this way: Michigan State (49 man-games) vs. Virginia (three); Louisville (53) against Kentucky (nine); Michigan (47) battling Tennessee (five) and Connecticut (23) vs. Iowa State (nine).

Quote of the day

“People grieve for a year after the game. People celebrate for a year after the game. I’ve tried to not make it bigger than it is. But it doesn’t work.” — John Calipari on the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry.

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