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Florida 77, St. Bonaventure 62: Gators rout Bonnies behind second-half blitz

Florida played 20 minutes of its finest basketball at a very opportune time.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida vs. St. Bonaventure Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Florida Gators had their customary swoon against St. Bonaventure on Thursday night in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Up 20-9, Florida drew a third foul on Bonnies star Jaylen Adams thanks to Keith Stone taking a charge — and still managed to blow all of that lead down the stretch in the first half, trailing 22-21 at one point.

That deficit would last for 14 seconds, as Mike Okauru followed the free throw to give the Bonnies the lead with a three, and Florida would add another three by Egor Koulechov before intermission to finish the first half up 27-22.

And then the afterburners came on.

Florida burst from the locker room with a 9-0 run, and kept pushing its lead throughout the second half, maxing out at 22 points, before clearing the bench in what would ultimately be a 77-62 win.

Florida’s 50 points in the second half were the product of warmed-up shooting — the Gators went 18-for-34 from the field in the second stanza, and just 9-for-31 in the first — and relentless defense that forced turnovers leading to quick offense. Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen combined for only 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting on the night in Dallas, but hounded Adams and Matt Mobley into a combined 11 turnovers, the majority of St. Bonaventure’s 17, and also held the talented Bonnies backcourt to a woeful 5-for-19 performance from the field of their own.

And while Courtney Stockard couldn’t match his bravura bow against UCLA in the Bonnies’ Tuesday win, scoring just 14 points, Florida could turn to Koulechov (20 points, four threes) and Jalen Hudson (16 points, including two on one sky-scraping putback dunk) to carry the scoring load.

Fine work by Florida’s bench, which produced 24 points of its own, also helped the Gators keep a lead that St. Bonaventure got to chisel away at from the charity stripe, as Florida’s 21 fouls led to a stunning 34 free throws for the Bonnies. (St. Bonaventure committed 19 fouls; Florida shot just 18 free throws.) Chiozza compensated for his lack of scoring with 11 assists, more than the Bonnies recorded as a team. And Florida also controlled the glass admirably, snagging nine offensive rebounds and repeatedly turning those into second-chance points.

By game’s end, Adams and Mobley had been removed to ovations from an adoring and appreciative Bonnies fan contingent, Florida had inserted walk-ons Andrew Fava and Mak Krause, and Gators coach Mike White was leaping on the sideline to show his displeasure with a run-out dunk from Deaundrae Ballard with only seconds remaining.

So, yeah: Yet another Florida game like so many other Florida games in recent memory, this one.

Except: This one recalled a few smashings of slippers in March, not the flailing of this fall and winter — and this is how Florida tends to rev into gear for NCAA Tournament runs.