- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Rosario, he of the broken finger, bum ankle, tender back, nagging hip pointer and bad first NCAA tournament game, decided to put the hurt on someone else Sunday.
And, yes, there were tears involved. That's usually the case at this one-and-done point of the season. But third-seeded Florida and Rosario were feeling no pain as they wide-tooth grinned their way into the Sweet 16 after a 78-64 win over No. 11 seed Minnesota in the Frank Erwin Center.
Florida, which is in its third straight Sweet 16 for the first time in school history, will play 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.
"I told myself, 'I can't let my guys down,'" Rosario said. "I was beating myself up that I didn't bring the full Mike Rosario in the first game and I felt like had to come out the second game."
He came out and stayed out. The senior guard scored 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting, with 17 of those points coming in the first half as Florida staked itself to a 23-point lead over the Gophers.
"When you shoot 6-of-9 [from behind the arc], even if you are by yourself that is pretty impressive," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "Those were really tough shots."
It wouldn't be Rosario if they weren't. He is a player more apt to struggle down the rocky road than stroll down the smooth path. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario has been a player and personality who has not exactly been at odds with Florida coach Billy Donovan in his Florida career but has not exactly been on the same wavelength, either. As a junior Donovan was pushing him through the injuries, letting him know what it meant to be a big-time player every night in a big-time program. And even in this, Rosario's senior season, Donovan has twice limited his minutes in the final weeks because of Rosario's failure to do the lithe, and essential, things on the court.
"There are times with Mike when he can come not focused and not be accountable and not be responsible in terms of doing the things he needs to do," Donovan said. "The reason our relationship is sometimes rocky is that I have held him to a higher standard."
Donovan, and everyone else, held Rosario in high esteem Sunday. Really there was no other place to put him. Even after the 17-point first half, Rosario, who has what is surely an infuriating ability to check out, stayed focused and nailed a 3-pointer that quelled a Minnesota run midway through the second half.
"I felt that every time I have an open look at it I'm going to take it," Rosario said. "And they were falling tonight."
That wasn't the case against Northwestern State on Friday. Rosario failed to box out on a play and because of that found himself on the bench for the majority of the game. Ditto with a few weeks ago against Kentucky when his carelessness pushed Donovan to the brink and Rosario right back to the bench.
But Rosario doesn't go to the bench to sulk.
"Mike will assume responsibility," Donovan said. "He is not a finger pointer and is not blaming other people. The best thing about Mike is that Mike lets me coach him. I am on him all the time a lot because I want him to be the best he can be on and off the floor."
Sunday Rosario was just that.
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