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Originally published March 24, 2013 at 9:11 PM | Page modified March 24, 2013 at 11:47 PM

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Florida Gulf Coast becomes first No. 15 seed to reach Sweet 16

By the time the buzzer sounded, the Philadelphia crowd was on its feet. It was a mix of awe and appreciation for what transpired during...

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PHILADELPHIA — By the time the buzzer sounded, the Philadelphia crowd was on its feet. It was a mix of awe and appreciation for what transpired during the previous two hours, when the best story — and most exciting show — of the NCAA tournament was on full display.

Florida Gulf Coast made history at the Wells Fargo Center, becoming the first 15th seed to advance to the Sweet 16. The 81-71 win over seventh-seeded San Diego State on Sunday night came two days after an upset of second-seeded Georgetown.

"We don't take ourselves too seriously," said Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield, whose players tossed him in the air and poured water on him in raucous celebration before his postgame interviews. "We try to have fun, get serious when we have to.

"Our goal was to make history and we did it."

The Eagles advanced to play Florida in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.

"We tried to scrimmage them early in the season in the preseason," Enfield said. "Now we get our shot."

The Eagles transformed throughout the weekend from an unknown Cinderella to a beloved extravaganza, with baskets reserved for highlight reels and assists found more often on playgrounds than NCAA tournaments.

Point guard Brett Comer was the conductor, swiveling passes to spaces that seemed both improbable and unoccupied. And then out of nowhere would come a blue jersey. The Eagles were not modest about their exploits, either, with players both on the court and bench erupting with the type of demonstrative euphoria that most college students would when something that seems too good to be true is actually true.

Comer finished with 10 points and 14 assists, while Bernard Thompson led the team with 23 points. Five players reached double figures.

A 17-0 run in the second half turned a 54-52 lead into a 71-52 lead, which was the point when the game raced out of control. Florida Gulf Coast trailed at the halftime for the first time in 22 games when San Diego State carried a 35-34 lead into halftime, although the highlight of the period was an Eagles alley-oop that outdid even the excitement from Friday night.

This time, Eric McKnight finished a Comer lob by extending his right arm behind his head and slamming the ball down with one hand. The crowd erupted in awe. That was just the beginning.

But the Eagles did not win on theatrics alone. They used their fast-break style to create easy baskets in transition and spaced the floor in the half court to give room for their athletes to roam. And just like Friday night's upset of Georgetown, the Eagles generated momentum throughout the game. Their run came in the second half, and the crowd was on board the entire time.

The story of the NCAA tournament happened right in front of Philadelphia's eyes. The Eagles arrived here as Fort Myers' team. By Friday night, they became Philadelphia's adopted team. By Sunday night, they were America's team.

Other games

Kansas 70,

North Carolina 58

Kansas got the best of ol' Roy and his Tar Heels once again.

Behind the impassioned play of Travis Releford and Jeff Withey, the top-seeded Jayhawks shook themselves out of a first-half slumber and blitzed No. 8 seed North Carolina down the stretch for a victory in the third round in Kansas City, Mo.

Withey had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Releford finished with 22 points for the Jayhawks (31-5), who also knocked former coach Roy Williams' team out of the NCAA tournament during their 2008 title run and again last season, when Kansas went to the title game.

The Jayhawks will keep marching this year thanks to a superb second half.

The Tar Heels (25-11) harassed the Jayhawks into a dozen turnovers and one of their worst shooting performances of the season in taking a 30-21 lead at the break. But they buckled in the second half as Kansas, playing just 40 miles from its campus in Lawrence, turned up the pressure.

The Jayhawks wound up outscoring North Carolina 49-28 after halftime, sending them into the South Regional semifinals against fourth-seeded Michigan on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

P.J. Hairston scored 15 points and James Michael McAdoo finished with 11 for the Tar Heels (25-11).

Florida 78, Minnesota 64

In Austin, Texas, Mike Rosario scored 25 points and Florida used an overpowering first half to roll past Minnesota and into the NCAA tournament round of 16 for the third consecutive year.

The No. 3-seed Gators (28-7) shot a blistering 65 percent in the first half and led by 21 by halftime.

Andre Hollins scored 25 points to lead the No. 11-seed Gophers (21-13). Hollins' three-point shooting sparked a second-half rally that pulled Minnesota seven points behind, but Rosario's sixth three-pointer with three minutes left pushed the Gators' lead back to 16 and effectively locked up the win.

The rematch of old coaching rivals Billy Donovan of Florida and Tubby Smith of Minnesota looked like it would be a laugher.

Donovan's Gators rode into the tournament as one of the best defensive teams in the country and backed that up in their first two games of the tournament. After thrashing Northwestern State, the Gators shoved aside the Gophers of the Big Ten in a show of muscle and offensive firepower.

Rosario was 8-of-12 shooting, and made 6 of 9 three-pointers.

Sweet 15?
Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. How previous No. 15 seeds who won their first game fared in the next round.
Year Winner Loser Next round
2013 Florida Gulf Coast Georgetown Beat San Diego St. 81-71
2012 Lehigh Duke Lost to Xavier 70-58
2012 Norfolk St. Missouri Lost to Florida 84-50
2001 Hampton Iowa St. Lost to Georgetown 76-57
1997 Coppin St. South Carolina Lost to Texas 82-81
1993 Santa Clara Arizona Lost to Temple 68-57
1991 Richmond Syracuse Lost to Temple 77-64

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