All fears were realized for Billy Donovan and fans of the Florida Gators. A team that didn’t look great in any of its tournament wins looked even worse in a 79-59 loss to Michigan at Cowboy Stadium on Sunday. Not only did Michigan lead from start to finish, they led by 13 in the first four minutes, and by 24 midway through the first half.
It was the third straight Elite Eight elimination for the Gators. This one was particularly painful as Florida had more talent and experience than any of those previous Gator squads. But this team underperformed from start to finish. The result was the biggest shellacking of the weekend.
Here are the takeaways from Michigan’s dominant win:
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1. Slow starts will eventually kill you
Florida fell behind early against Florida Gulf Coast and they had lackluster starts against Minnesota and Northwestern State. In all those cases, Donovan made adjustments and guards Scottie Wilbekin, Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario were able to get into a rhythm and generate points in the second half.
This time the early lethargy put the Gators in a hole too deep. Michigan led 13-0 before some of the fans found their seats. By the time the Wolverines stretched the margin north of 20 the game was all but over. The Gators mounted a couple of charges, but Michigan was never in danger.
You can come back from slow starts when you have superior talent. But when the skill level equals out, getting behind early can be a killer.
2. Size doesn’t always matter
Because of a size advantage inside, the Gators tried to pound the ball in the paint to Patric Young and Erik Murphy. But Young could only manage eight points, half of those coming off rebounds, while Murphy was held scoreless.
Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Jon Horford did great work denying the inside lanes, creating turnovers and getting the ball out in transition for Michigan.
Donovan did not do a very good job adjusting when the inside game was denied. Rather than have Boynton and Rosario take outside shots so that Young and Murphy could crash the boards, Florida continued to play an inside game that yielded zero points in the first three-plus minutes and put the game out of reach almost immediately. 3. Emotion matters
Michigan mounted the best comeback of the tournament, charging from 10 down to Kansas with 2:52 remaining to win in overtime. That gutsy victory amped up players and fans — and the emotion carried over to Sunday.
Nik Stauskas, who averaged 11 points a game all year, doubled that in this one, including a 6-for-6 performance from outside the three-point line. And freshman Spike Albrecht, who averaged a point a game and whose role in the regular season was able to get the ball up the floor when Trey Burke was catching his breath, scored seven points, including a late three-pointer to add icing to this Big Blue cake.
They did it on grit and emotion, something that will serve the Wolverines well if they can carry it with them to Atlanta.