ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) — The Florida Gators are off to a good start in the NCAA Tournament.
Devin Robinson tied his career-high with 24 points, Kasey Hill added 14 and No. 4 seed Florida used a second-half surge to beat 13th-seeded East Tennessee State 80-65 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Robinson, an NBA prospect who had been relatively quiet late in the season, scored his most points in nearly two months. He made 10 of 17 shots and chipped in seven rebounds. The speedy Hill reached double figures for the fourth consecutive game. He also added six rebounds and five assists for his most complete game in a month.
Kevarrius Hayes, filling in for injured center John Egbunu, finished with seven points, seven rebounds and six steals. He broke the school record for steals in an NCAA Tournament game.
Florida (25-8) needed all those contributions, especially since coach Mike White got so little from leading scorer KeVaughn Allen and Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year Canyon Barry. Allen and Barry scored seven points apiece. They were 2 of 15 combined.
Allen and Barry will have a chance to bounce back Saturday when the Gators play fifth-seeded Virginia in the second round of the East Region.
T.J. Cromer led the Buccaneers (27-8) with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Florida blew open a close game with a barrage of 3-pointers in the second half. Robinson hit consecutive treys, and then Allen followed with a wide-open look from the top of the arc. Chris Chiozza added two more a few minutes later, and the rout was on.
It was a stark contrast from the first half in which the Gators couldn’t find their range. They missed their first eight 3-pointers and finished 1 of 10 from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
ETSU: The Buccaneers had won nine of their last 10 and thought this would be their year to get their first NCAA Tournament win since 1992. Still, coach Steve Forbes has the program on the right track even though it includes adding disgruntled transfers and guys from the junior college ranks.
Florida: The Gators had played a lot of “small ball” after Egbunu’s season-ending knee injury, with White going with a lot of three- and four-guard lineups. But he went big Thursday by getting freshman Gorjok Gak some minutes. Gak helped the Gators maintain a post presence with Hayes on the bench, finishing with four points and a rebound.
Florida plays fifth-seeded Virginia on Saturday, and the Gators surely will another home-crowd advantage.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)