Florida Gulf Coast put on one last show at the NCAA tournament.
The high-flying kids from "Dunk City" – the No. 15 seed few people even knew of on Selection Sunday – were hitting 3-pointers, had a highlight alley-oop and seemed like they were just getting started against one of the big schools from Florida.
SEC regular-season champion Florida, the No. 3 seed, was getting an all-too-close look at what everybody has enjoyed watching this March. But Michael Frazier's only two baskets of the night got the Gators on their own run, and FGCU's improbable NCAA tourney run to the round of 16 came to an end just before midnight Friday.
Frazier's 3-pointers came from the left side, directly in front of the FGCU bench, to start a 16-0 run late in the first half. That put the Gators ahead to stay on the way to a 62-50 victory.
"Stepping into a situation like this where you have everybody against us, we've got to block everything out. Just treat this like a road game," said Mike Rosario, who led the Gators with 15 points. "I thought we did a great job of blocking everything out and focusing on the next play."
Florida is going to its third straight NCAA regional final, even after the Eagles jumped out to an early 11-point lead. The Gators (29-7) and their roster filled with NCAA tourney experience were just too strong and too good. FGCU matched its season low for points.
Once Frazier hit his shots, things just rolled downhill for the Eagles (26-11), whose program is so new they were only in their second season of eligibility for the tournament. The baskets started a 4 1/2-minute span when the Eagles couldn't even get off a shot. They missed their only field goal attempt while turning the ball over four times in that stretch.
The slump finally ended when Sherwood Brown, the Eagles dreadlocked senior showman, made a layup in the final minute to get Florida Gulf Coast back within 30-26 by halftime.
"When they started their run, we didn't have the energy we had in the other two games," said Eagles forward Chase Fieler. "We weren't playing with the same fire we were before."
FGCU players walked down the steps off the raised court at Cowboys Stadium at the break with their heads down – much different from the team that looked so loose and ready for a good time after an early 11-0 run – similar to extended spurts they had in upsetting No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State.
The Gators will play Michigan in the South Regional final at Cowboys Stadium at 2:20 p.m. Sunday. They are trying to get to their first NCAA Final Four since consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007.
No. 4 seed Michigan overcame a 14-point deficit earlier Friday and beat No. 1 seed Kansas 87-85 in overtime.
After the Gators turned up the defensive pressure, the most fun team this side of the Harlem Globetrotters was suddenly having a lot fewer laughs. Those spectacular dunks and alley-oops weren't there and Florida forced 20 turnovers.
FGCU heads back to Fort Myers (aka Dunk City), where they have man-made lakes and a beach on campus, having given the tournament a blast of fresh air while its players were just having a blast. The south Florida state school also got about the best free publicity its administrators could ever hope for.
"It was great to see the excitement across the country with the underdog and it's just a real feeling when you're the underdog and you're the talk of the nation," FGCU coach Andy Enfield said. "Our plan wasn't to become some great national story. Our plan was to go in and compete and win games. It was unbelievable to see the excitement and passion of not only our local community, the students, but also the national level.
"Our players believed, and they accomplished something special."
Scottie Wilbekin added 13 points for Florida and Casey Prather 11.
Brown led FGCU with 14 points, and Fieler had 12.
Fieler started the Eagles' big run, the only one they'd have, with a 3-pointer from the top of the key before a few plays of the sort that earned them their "Dunk City" moniker.