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The 2020-21 college basketball season has been a trying one for every single player in the country, but for Scottie Lewis and the Florida Gators, it has been especially difficult.

On Friday afternoon, all the trials and tribulations finally got a payoff when, behind a 15-point effort from Lewis off the bench, Florida outlasted Virginia Tech, 75-70, in overtime to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was a game worthy of the opening game of the first full day of the tournament, with Florida rallying to take control of the game after trailing most of the game, appearing to be in the clear only to have Virginia Tech's Nahiem Alleyne (game-high 28 points) bury a contested, game-tying, pull-up three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left.

Florida guard Scottie Lewis. (NCAA Photos)
Florida guard Scottie Lewis. (NCAA Photos)

Late in the game, Florida rode big man Colin Castleton on both ends, with the 6-foot-11 junior scoring five points in overtime and swatting a shot at the rim late in regulation.

Lewis assisted a dunk by Anthony Dujuri to open the overtime scoring and Trey Mann hit a clutch three-pointer to make it 74-70 in the final minutes of the extra period.

Lewis had his jumper working Friday, going 5-for-8 from the floor, 2-for-3 from the three-point line and 3-for-4 from the free-throw line. Three of the five shots Lewis hit from the field came from out at the three-point line, with one of the coming with his foot on the line.

All four of Lewis's free-throw attempts came late in the fourth quarter and overtime and the sophomore added four rebounds and two assists.

Florida will now try to avoid the same fate as Ohio State - the No. 2 seed in the South Region - which lost a stunner to No. 15 Oral Roberts in overtime. Florida will take on Oral Roberts on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

Friday was a welcome highlight for the Florida team. Back in November, Florida's players watched their teammate and preseason SEC Player of the Year, Keontae Johnson, collapse on the court in a game against rival Florida State. Even though the team is grateful to have him back on the sideline, it has missed his ability on the court.

The ensuing struggles without Johnson have been understandable but Lewis's up-and-down season has been a little harder to figure out. Lewis was benched to start the SEC Tournament opener vs. Vanderbilt for arriving late to shootaround, scored one point in two SEC Tournament games, and still is not back in the starting lineup.

None of that deterred Lewis from making a major impact in his first NCAA Tournament game, which came a year later than expected due to the cancellation of the 2020 Tournament.

Florida guard Scottie Lewis. (NCAA Photos)
Florida guard Scottie Lewis defended by Virginia Tech red-shirt junior and Millville, N.J. native Justyn Mutts. (NCAA Photos)

Lewis and current Florida teammate Alex Klatsky both graduated from the Ranney School in 2019 after leading the Panthers to the Tournament of Champions title as seniors. Ranney is the only Shore Conference Team to win the T of C.

Lewis, Klatsky and former Ranney School teammate Bryan Antoine will all be in action on the same day, with Antoine and Villanova playing in the final game of the day against Winthrop after Lewis and the Gators opened the day.


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