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Devin Robinson powers Florida past ETSU in NCAA opener

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Devin Robinson tied his career-high with 24 points, Kasey Hill added 14 and No. 4 seed Florida used a second-half surge to beat 13th-seeded East Tennessee State 80-65 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Led by Robinson, the Gators got off to a hot start and made seven of their first eight shot attempts. Several of those baskets came in the form of dunks from Robinson.

“Yeah, that got me going really early,” said Robinson. “My team, we were just trying to play defense, and I just tried to beat everybody down the court. Transition defense is one of their emphases and what they need to work on. So I just tried to run as hard and play as hard as I can, and my teammates found me when I did.”

That hot start didn’t last. ETSU was able to slow the game down and Florida had trouble converting in the half court. The Gators would close the first half by missing 14 of their next 21 shots. At halftime, Florida clung to a 33-32 lead.

Heading into Thursday’s game the Gators were a popular pick to be upset by the Bucs. That point was reemphasized in the locker room at half-time. It worked because from there Florida shot 54 percent in the second half and pulled away for good.

“So this was great for us to get back on the right side of the win-loss column,” said Gators head coach Mike White. “I thought we had a really good week of practice. Our focus and discipline, especially defensively, was really good to start the second half. I thought that was the difference in the game for us. We really locked in.”

The Gators needed that type of defensive performance, because a couple of their primary scorers had off shooting nights. Canyon Barry and KeVaughn Allen combined to shoot 2-of-15 from the floor.

“I thought both of those guys were good in different areas, not necessarily scoring it,” said White. “But that’s kind of who we are. We’ve had eight different leading scorers.”

Next up for Florida is a meeting on Saturday at 8:40 p.m. against No. 5 seed Virginia. Earlier on Thursday, the Cavs defeated the University of North Carolina Wilmington.