Florida came out listless and never seemed comfortable with the quickness of the Jaspers. Manhattan was the aggressor and soon had the entire crowd behind them.
“I know that Florida is a sleeping giant,” said Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzales. “You’re looking up at the clock, wondering when they’re going to wake up.”
Luis Flores proved he could score against the big boys. The undersized slasher took over the game and dominated the bigger, more heralded Gator guards.
Flores wasn’t efficient in scoring his 26 points. He made just 8-of-23 shots, but knocked down a trio of three pointers and converted 7-9 free throws.
Florida cut the lead to three early in the second half, but soon found themselves back at the wrong end of a double-figure lead. The Gators seemed to lack passion and were flat out-hustled by the Jaspers.
Matt Walsh drew the ire of the crowd, and likely sealed the game for Manhattan, when he intentionally fouled Mike Konovelchick on the fast break. Konovelchick drained both free throws and the Jaspers converted on the ensuing possession and took a 14-point lead with 9:41 to play. From there on out whenever Walsh touched the ball he was met with a round of boos.
Walsh never got on track, he missed all five three-point attempts, scoring 13 points.
Four players scored in double figures for the Jaspers, and they continued their great shooting from the foul line. They converted on 17-21 from the foul stripe.
“We’re one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country,” Gonzales said.
Despite a lack of height, the more aggressive Jaspers outrebounded Florida 36-26, grabbing a whopping 13 on the offensive glass. Dave Holmes ripped down four of his 12 rebounds off of missed Jasper shots. His work on the glass led to his 12 points.
For Florida it is the second time in three seasons that they have bowed out in the first round to a lower seed. In 2002 they lost in overtime to Creighton.
Anthony Roberson scored 22 points, but 11 came in the final 4:00.