The historic season put together by the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) ended with a thud on Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) responded from early adversity to dominate the No. 1 overall seed for the majority of the contest and eliminate Florida in the Final Four round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a stunning 63-53 victory.
The Gators saw their 30-game winning streak, the 10th longest in college basketball history, snapped as they ended their season short of a national title for the seventh-straight season. It was head coach Billy Donovan‘s first ever loss in the semifinal round.
OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with nine quick-hitters:
It was over when: A personal 6-2 run by senior center Patric Young got Florida within six points with four minutes to play, but two free throws made by Shabazz Napier put UConn back up eight and kick-started an 8-2 run that gave it a 12-point lead with 1:46 to play. It was never close again.
Prominent players: Young came up big for the Gators, especially in the second half, and finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. For the Huskies, DeAndre Daniels was outstanding, hitting 9-of-14 attempts for a game-high 20 points with a game-high 10 boards as well. Young added five rebounds and a block to his line.
Disappearing act: Known as Florida’s closer most of the season, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a non-factor – and at times a detriment – for the Gators on Saturday. He went 2-for-9 from the field, missed three attempts from beyond the arc, only dished one assist, gave up three turnovers and committed four fouls. It was his worst performance of the season and just the second time this year he scored fewer than seven points in a game.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Significant stretch: Florida trailed the entire second half but was down just three with eight minutes remaining. UConn responded with an 8-1 scoring stretch to re-take a 10-point lead with 5:37 to play and eventually extended their advantage to 12. It was a season-high deficit for UF, which was simply unable to fully recover.
First half focus: Florida opened up the game on a 7-0 run and stretched its advantage to 16-4 as UConn could only manage to score four points at the midway point of the opening 20 minutes. The 12 points was underdog’s largest deficit of the tournament. The Huskies responded with an 11-0 run – including three triples, two from Daniels – and a 21-6 stretch of their own to take a 25-22 lead at the half. UF went on a 5:05 scoreless drought during the big run – which completely negated its tremendous opening 10 minutes – and only made two baskets over the final 9:48 of the first half.
Perfect play: On one of the final possessions of the game, Young laid his entire body out to try and grab a rebound but was ultimately unsuccessful. Nevertheless, it was a paradigm of his play throughout the game and the Gators’ effort all season long.
Standout stats: Florida had just three assists on 19 made baskets, failing to adequately move the ball or get anything going offensively. UF went 34:34 without recording an assist in the game. The Gators shot 19-for-49 overall (.388) and went 1-for-10 from beyond the arc, missing nine-straight threes to end the game after sophomore guard Michael Frazier II made one 10 seconds into the contest.
What it means: Florida played its worst game of the season in its last game of the season for the second-straight year. The Gators got completely outworked by a motivated Huskies team that played better on both ends of the court and simply proved to be a deserving finalist (2-0 over UF this season).
Next up: Young, Wilbekin and senior forwards Casey Prather and Will Yegeute each played their last game in a Florida uniform. The Gators will also wait to hear what freshman F Chris Walker chooses to do at season’s end – either turn pro or return for his sophomore season. Prather scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting with six boards, and Yeguete was 0-for-2 with two points (via free throws) and three rebounds.