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Florida ends Dayton’s Cinderella run

AP

Scottie Wilbekin scored 23 points and Florida became the first team to advance to the Final Four with a 62-52 victory on Saturday over the 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers in the South Regional final.

The Gators reached their fifth Final Four after losing at this point in each of the past three NCAA tournaments. This time, they came in as the country’s top-ranked team and the overall No. 1 seed.

Florida won its 30th straight game and improved to 36-2, topping the 35 wins by the 2007 national championship squad.

“I couldn’t be prouder and happier,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after being drenched with water in the Gators’ locker room.

“In a lot of ways, outside the Michigan game, we were close to being in three out of four Final Fours right now, and that says a lot about these guys. But I think those experiences maybe helped us be a better team this year than maybe we would have if we’d have gotten to a couple of ones earlier.”

Patric Young scored 12 points, and Michael Frazier II added 10 for Florida. The Gators will play either UConn or Michigan State in Arlington, Texas, in the national semifinal.

Dyshawn Pierre led the Flyers with 18 points, including the final 11 for Dayton (26-11). Devin Oliver added 12 points.

Dayton came in trying to become only the fourth 11 seed to advance to the Final Four.

Coach Archie Miller complimented the Gators, saying that just being on the floor with Florida gave Dayton a “big-time feeling.”

“It’s always hard to lose the last game of the season, but in the back of my mind, I’m not sure a team in the nation captured more people’s hearts than these guys did, and they did it the right way,” Miller said.

The Flyers hit one more field goal than Florida (19-18), but the Gators outrebounded them 37-26. They also had a massive edge at the free throw line (21 of 28) to (6 of 8).

WEST REGIONAL

Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT)

In Anaheim, every big shot Wisconsin needed, Frank Kaminsky hit.

The 213-cm center carried Wisconsin to the Final Four with 28 points, including six in overtime, as the Badgers defeated Arizona in a physical West Region final.

Kaminsky had 11 rebounds and scored from inside and outside, including three 3-pointers, for the No. 2 seed Badgers (30-7). It’s Wisconsin’s first Final Four appearance since 2000, and first for 69-year-old coach Bo Ryan, who earned his 704th career win.

“We want a national championship now,” Kaminsky said. “We have made it to the opportunity to get there, so why not go get it?”

Kaminsky proved the only reliable scorer on a night when the rest of the Badgers disappeared offensively. Sam Dekker was 2-for-5, Ben Brust went 2-for-7, Traevon Jackson was 4 of 14 and Nigel Hayes was 2 of 8.

“Their big guy really had a great game,” Arizona’s Nick Johnson said. “He raised his level.”

Johnson had the ball with a chance to win, but he missed a shot that launched just after the buzzer for Arizona (33-5), the top-seeded team that has yet to win a West Region final in Anaheim in four tries. Johnson led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Aaron Gordon had 18 rebounds in the relentlessly physical game.

It was the record-tying seventh OT game of this year’s tournament.