Florida Gators vs. UConn Huskies preview: UF not seeking Final Four revenge, G Eli Carter in limbo

By Adam Silverstein
January 2, 2015

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS ()
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS UCONN HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 7-5 Record: 6-5
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American

Odds: OFF


HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida and UConn do not have a long history with the Huskies holding a 2-1 margin all-time against the Gators with both of UF’s losses coming last season. Florida fell to UConn 65-64 in a regular season road game on Dec. 2, 2013, and the Huskies defeated the Gators 63-53 in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. It was Donovan’s first-ever loss in the national semifinal (3-1). Between those two losses, UF won a program-record 30-straight games.
» The Gators were 86-10 over the last three seasons when holding opponents under 71 points in a game; UF is 7-3 this season when doing so.
» Florida dropped consecutive non-conference games (vs. North Carolina, at Kansas) for the first time since 2009 and could be in danger of doing so again after falling to Florida State on Tuesday.
» The Gators have put forward eight different starting lineups in 12 regular-season games. Overall, 10 players have started at least one game for UF this season.
» Florida learned to win close games last season, going 15-2 in contests decided by single digits; the Gators are 2-4 in such affairs this season.
» UF is on pace for 18.1 wins in the regular season while looking for its 17th consecutive season with 20+ victories. Florida’s 16-straight campaigns with that many wins is the longest streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally. Only eight coaches have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.
» Earlier this season, Miami snapped Florida’s program-record 33-game home winning streak, which dated back to Nov. 11, 2012, and was the second-longest in the nation. The Canes also broke the Gators’ school-record 25-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents, which dated back to Dec. 22, 2010.
» Florida is still on program-record 18-game winning streaks against SEC opponents overall (since Jan. 8, 2014) and at home (since Jan. 9, 2014). UF has also won a school-record nine-in-a-row over SEC opponents on the road (since Jan. 11, 2014).

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

» Questionable (1): Redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (foot)
» Out (2): sophomore center John Egbunu (transfer – season), freshman guard Brandone Francis (academics – season)

Carter has missed five of Florida’s 12 games this season while dealing with a mid-foot sprain he originally suffered in a 69-67 loss to Miami on Nov. 11. Though Carter and the Gators were lucky that his injury was not the more serious Lisfranc fracture, the ailment has nevertheless kept him off the court longer and more often than the team’s doctors and trainers expected.

Set to return for UF against Wake Forest on Dec. 20, Carter was held out for a different reason – strep throat. Combining his broken leg from two seasons ago at Rutgers with the lingering leg and ankle problems that forced him to miss the 2013-14 season, with the mid-foot sprain and strep throat that have plagued him in 2014-15 and college basketball has been a frustrating adventure for Carter, to say the least.

So when he entered action against Florida State with a spring in his step, no one could blame him; unfortunately, 30 seconds after getting on the court, Carter went down in a heap with what appeared to be a sprained ankle. Nope. It was a re-aggravation of the mid-foot sprain, of course.

“I would say right now he’s doubtful. It’s the same injury he had, the one he’s been sitting out with before the strep. I don’t know if it’s a re-injury but it’s right now being diagnosed as a mid-foot sprain,” said Donovan during a media availability on Thursday. “My guess right now is that he’s doubtful. He did not practice [Wednesday], he’s not practicing [Thursday]. I would say that right now he probably would be out unless something changes.”

As it turns out, Carter did practice Thursday with the Gators announcing he was on the court with the team for all of its drills and scrimmages. Carter made the decision on his own to practice and fight through whatever pain remained, something Donovan has been suggesting he do for some time.

“We were overly cautious [with Carter’s rehabilitation]. For that injury, it was over two weeks. He was basically totally cleared to play [weeks ago]. I think he actually got extra rest because of the strep throat; that’s why he didn’t play, he probably would’ve played against Wake Forest,” Donovan noted on Thursday.

“These decisions, once the doctor and trainer clears him to go, it’s kind of on him how he feels. When he was cleared to play, he elected not to. He didn’t think he could; he thought it was still bothering him. From our standpoint right now, whenever the doctors clear him to play, he’s going to be cleared. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily structurally wrong right now, they’re going to do an MRI just to make sure there’s not any damage in there. Whenever they clear him, it’s up to him and that’s really a decision Eli’s got to make.”

Carter’s status remains up in the air for Saturday afternoon, though with him practicing on Thursday, it seems as though he will at least try to give it a go.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on whether Florida looks at Saturday’s game as revenge for its Final Four loss to UConn: “It’s two totally different teams. Two totally different sets of guys. There are some returning players from both teams. But the reality is this game has its own set of challenges, so to speak. This illusion that you get back something that happened a year ago or last season – I’ve just never believed in that, there’s nothing to that. That game to go play in a national championship game, that’s exactly what it was, a game to play in the national championship game – and we came up short. Over and done with; now it’s on to this year right now and that’s the way we’re looking at it right now. Some of those guys may remember and have been part of that game but at the same point there’s a lot of other guys that are different, in different roles, it’s a different team. We got to play against this year’s UConn team, we’re not playing against last year’s UConn team – and probably the same can be said for them – they’re not playing against our team last year, they’re playing against our team this year.”

» Donovan on how the Gators can benefit from redshirt senior walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz‘s miscue at the end of Tuesday’s game against the Seminoles: “Obviously, he felt awful about the play. But he was trying to make the right play for the right reasons and it didn’t go well. I told him, as a senior, he’s got an unbelievable opportunity to display what mental toughness is. Mental toughness is when things aren’t going well; it’s easy to be mentally tough when things are great. Now he’s got a point, to me, maybe that happened to him in that game because he is probably one of the most mentally tough guys on our team, to show the rest of our team how to handle adversity, toughness, a bad situation and how to respond back from that.

“I wish our guys responded more like he does when things do not go well. He was right back [Wednesday] in practice, great, understands it, feels bad about it, moved on. But he has an unbelievable opportunity to set an incredible example of what mental toughness is, resiliency, and perseverance is when something doesn’t go well, he didn’t come in here pouting, feeling sorry for himself, ‘Woe is me, I can’t believe it I lost the game for everybody, I feel terrible, I can’t even pick myself off the mat, how can you expect me to practice?’ There’s none of that with him. Sometimes on our team, we get too much of that … and there’s not a mental toughness that they have. That’s not something I think you’re innately born with, I think it’s something you developed over time. He can be a great example for our guys on how to handle and persevere through something like that.”

2 Comments

  1. Michael scott says:

    He shouldn’t of been in the game .He is not one of our top 5 players .Your best players should be on the court in the last minute .

    • markt1978 says:

      WELL HOW MANY NATTY TITLES HAVE YOU COACHED IN?? FINAL FOURS??? ELITE EIGHTS? A COLLEGE GAME?? I THINK KURTZ HAS DONE A GREAT JOB FOR US. BILLY HAS DONE A REMARKABLE JOB ALREADY AND THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

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