SYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- Goliath was moved to tears because another David is moving on.
Duke, the nation's top-ranked team, became the third No. 1 seed eliminated from the NCAA Tournament as Florida used its depth to wear down the Blue Devils en route to an 87-78 victory in an East Region "Sweet 16" contest at the Carrier Dome.
The fifth-seeded Gators (27-7) rallied from a six-point deficit down the stretch and held Duke scoreless for the final four minutes as they defeated a top-ranked team for the first time in eight tries.
"It was a great win for our team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "For our team to go out and beat Duke ... it was just a great victory. I couldn't be any happier for the University of Florida." Florida will play Oklahoma State or Seton Hall on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
"There was a tremendous amount of emotion in the locker room," Florida's Kenyan Weaks said. "We didn't come here just to beat Duke. We have another game to play to advance to the Final Four." Jason Williams, Nate James, Shane Battier and Chris Carrawell all missed 3-pointers in the last 2:17 as Duke lost for the first time in its last 26 NCAA Tournament East Regional games.
All of the aforementioned Blue Devils will be back for at least another season, except Carrawell, who cried on the shoulders of coach Mike Krzyzewski when he was finally removed from the game with 8.1 seconds remaining.
"To go out the way we did was not sad," Carrawell said. "It's sad to lose, but we had a great season." Duke joined Stanford and Arizona as No. 1 seeds that were unable to reach the "Elite Eight." Michigan State, the Midwest Region's top seed, will play Iowa State on Saturday for a berth in the Final Four.
The Gators will play in a regional final for the first time since 1994, when they advanced to the Final Four before suffering a 70-65 loss to Duke.
"Duke is a great team, it's no secret," Gators forward Mike Miller said. "The whole season we have relied on playing for 40 minutes. The one thing we have down well through the tournament is that we have stayed focused." Duke was playing its first game in the Carrier Dome, while Florida improved to 3-2 all-time in the building where it claimed its first NCAA Tournament win with a victory over North Carolina State in 1987.
After trailing by seven at halftime, Duke built a 72-66 lead with 6:36 left on a jumper by freshman point guard Jason Williams.
Williams, a freshman, opened a miserable 1-of-11 from the field but drained four straight shots in a two-minute span. The jumper capped an 8-2 run and the Blue Devils appeared to have control.
But Brett Nelson, who led the Gators with 15 points, hit a long 3-pointer from the right wing. After a layup on the break by Duke's Mike Dunleavy Jr., Udonis Haslem hit a short jumper for the Gators and Teddy Dupay's three-point play tied it with 4:59 left.
Dupay scored on a runner as he was bumped by Carlos Boozer, who picked up his fifth foul and Duke's only true inside presence was forced to the bench.
The Blue Devils at first rallied around Boozer's absence, as Battier hit a bank shot and made two free throws moments later. But Dupay nailed a 3-pointer and Brent Wright's layup put Florida ahead for good, 79-78, with 2:08 to play.
Battier's two free throws with 4:01 left represented Duke's last points of the night. The Gators went 8-of-11 in the final 1:38 to seal the victory.
Each team had five players in double figures, but Florida's bench outscored Duke's, 42-6.
Haslem had 13 points and eight rebounds, Mike Miller 10 and nine and Wright 10 and eight for the Gators, whose press forced 22 turnovers, five by Williams. Florida connected on 47 percent (30-of-64) of its shots, including 7-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Battier collected 20 points and nine rebounds and Carrawell added 16 and six for the Blue Devils, who shot 43 percent (29-of-68) but were 3-of-19 from 3-point range. Williams made only one of his nine 3-point attempts.
"It was a heck of a year for us," James said. "It's one of those situations where two good teams meet up and one had to lose. The only disappointing thing is that the journey is over." Duke held a 44-36 advantage on the boards.