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Florida ends Florida Gulf Coast's storybook run

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cinderella beware, the Florida Gators crush dreams.

It was the Gators who sent home perhaps the biggest March Madness darling ever when they defeated 11-seeded George Mason in the Final Four in 2006, and now Florida has ended the run of this year's team-of-the-moment, Florida Gulf Coast.

No. 2-seed Florida surged at the end of the first half to take the lead from the Eagles and never looked back, claiming a 62-50 victory over FGCU on Friday night at Cowboys Stadium.

By maintaining sunshine-state bragging rights, Florida (29-7) advanced to the South Region final to face Michigan on Sunday.

FGCU had the sentimental support of a big chunk of the 40,639 fans at the South Region semifinal. The Eagles (26-11) also had the full attention of the Gators.

"For whatever reason, the two teams that they played they felt disrespected them," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We went into the game with a lot of respect for them."

The Gators took a four-point lead to halftime and extended it by scoring the first seven points of the second half. Florida guard Kenny Boynton completed a three-point play to begin the second half and Mike Rosario followed with two straight baskets.

Suddenly, FGCU found itself playing from behind by double-digits for the first time in their tournament run. The Eagles didn't get many open looks -- and not enough dunks -- against a stifling Florida defense and FGCU failed to make a second-half run to get back into it.

"We did a good job of putting pressure and making those guys feel uncomfortable," Rosario said.

FGCU committed 20 turnovers and took it away from the Gators just 10 times. Eagles coach Andy Enfield said some of FGCU's mistakes were uncharacteristic of his team.

"I was shocked at some of the bad turnovers we had," Enfield said. "It wasn't what Florida was doing. We did it to ourselves."

Meanwhile, the Gators did enough with a patient offense to stiff-arm the Eagles. Rosario led Florida with 15 points, Scottie Wilbekin added 13 and Casey Prather came off the bench to score 11.

Sherwood Brown led FGCU with 14 points.

FGCU got its Dunk City mojo working early when Chase Fieler touched off a run with a 3-pointer. Brown followed with a dunk and the Eagles were flying.

By the time Fieler hit his second 3-pointer of the run, FGCU had a 15-4 lead and all the early momentum.

However, the Eagles went into a scoring drought after Eddie Murray's dunk at the 7:14 mark of the first half. FGCU went more than six minutes without a field goal, only scoring when Christophe Varidel went to the free-throw line to hit three straight.

Florida took advantage by going on a 16-5 run in the final 5:10 of the half.

Michael Frazier hit 3-pointers on back-to-back trips down the floor to cut FGCU's lead to 24-20 and set the Gators rolling.

Rosario's 3-pointer with 1:38 to go in the half gave Florida a 27-24 lead, it's first of the game, and Boynton completed a three-point play to boost the lead to six points.

Despite its loss to Florida, FGCU managed to bring the Fort Myers, Fla., school into the forefront of the college basketball nation's attention in the last week.

"Florida Gulf Coast wasn't a very well-known school and now the whole nation knows about it," Brown said. "We're happy that we could do that. There's a lot of big things coming to FGCU."

NOTES: Besides being from the same state and playing in the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast and Florida have one more eerie similarity. Florida Gulf Coast was the first program to win its first two NCAA Tournament games in program history since Florida accomplished that feat in 1987. ... Florida Gulf Coast is the first team from the Atlantic Sun Conference to advance to the Sweet 16. ... Florida advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season, joining Kansas, Ohio State and Marquette as the only four programs to reach the Sweet 16 in each of those seasons. ... The game guaranteed that the state of Florida would have a program in the Elite 8, all while playing in Texas, which had no teams in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977.