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Florida beats Dayton to reach Final Four

Mar 30, 2014 - 4:15 AM Memphis, TN ( - For the fourth time under head coach Billy Donovan, Florida is headed to the Final Four.

SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Gators to a 62-52 win over Dayton on Saturday in the South Region final at FedExForum.

Top-seeded Florida (36-2), the first team to punch its ticket to Arlington, Texas, will enter on a school-record 30-game winning streak. The SEC champs won 36 games for the first time in program history.

"It's hard to believe what these guys have done," said Donovan. "It's amazing."

Patric Young chimed in with 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks for Florida while Michael Frazier II scored 10 points. Dorian Finney-Smith contributed nine boards off the bench.

"Beginning of the year, you always set your goal to make it here," said Young.

The Gators await the winner of Sunday's East Regional final between Michigan State and Connecticut.

Dyshawn Pierre completed his impressive tournament with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting for Dayton (26-11), while Devin Oliver had 12 points on 4-of-7 from behind the arc in his final collegiate game.

Freshman Kasey Hill injected some life into Florida's offense early on, hitting two free throws and assisting on a Young reverse layup moments after checking in at the 15:55 mark. Finney-Smith then found Young for another layup and Florida led 13-7. The six-point deficit was Dayton's largest of the tournament to that point.

The margin reached 17-10 after a pair of Casey Prather buckets, but Florida went cold from the floor after that, missing five straight field goal attempts with two turnovers. Kyle Davis, Oliver and Scoochie Smith hit 3-pointers during that stretch, the last of which gave Dayton its first lead of the contest at 21-19.

Wilbekin tied the score with two from the charity stripe, and Frazier restored the Gators' lead with a layup with 6:00 to play.

After Kendall Pollard slashed to the rim for a layup to make it 23-23, UF ran off 10 straight for the game's first double-digit lead. Frazier, Florida's leading 3-point shooter on the season, hit the first outside shot of the game for the Gators during the surge, which Will Yeguete capped with his layup with just under two minutes to play.

For the second time this tournament, Wilbekin beat the buzzer with a deep 3- ball after isolating at the top of the key on Florida's last possession of the half. It was 38-24 at intermission.

Oliver and Pierre made sure the game didn't slip away, hitting consecutive treys from the left corner on the Flyers first two possessions of the second half, leading to a quick UF timeout.

But despite their best efforts, Florida was just too overpowering. Young's layup at 16:33 made it 43-32, and a 9-2 Gators flurry moments later pushed the spread to 53-36.

Dayton trailed 55-41 when Pierre erupted for nine straight points around a Wilbekin trey. His layup at 3:55 cut it to 58-50.

"Dyshawn was terrific," praised Dayton head coach Archie Miller. " In our darkest, sort of gloomiest period out there, we needed to find somebody that could kind of get us going. We were able to get him the ball two or three times in a row, and he was able to capitalize."

Out of the final media timeout, Yeguete missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Flyers couldn't capitalize. Oliver missed a deep 3 from the left wing and after Wilbekin's runner rimmed out, Smith got caught in the air and threw the ball away with 1:05 showing.

Wilbekin made 5-of-6 from the line down the stretch to ensure the victory for the Gators.

Game Notes

Florida has reached the Final Four in 2000, 2006 and 2007 under Donovan, winning the National Championship in '06 and '07. The Gators lost in the Elite Eight each of the past three seasons, and they are 32-11 in the NCAA Tournament under Donovan ... Florida outrebounded Dayton 37-26, including a 12-5 difference on the offensive glass ... Dayton fell to 2-8 on the season when two or fewer players scored in double figures ... Dayton last made the Final Four in 1967, when it was a National Runner-Up ... The Flyers are now 17-17 all-time in 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.