Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan becomes second-youngest to 500 career wins

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan on Saturday became the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach 500 career victories.

Donovan (49 years, 271 days) joins former Indiana coach Bob Knight (48 years, 81 days) as the only other man in D-I history to achieve win No. 500 before his 50th birthday.

The vast majority of Donovan’s wins (465) have come with the Gators as he’s led Florida to four Final Fours, three appearances in the national title game and back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Entering this season, Donovan’s streak of 16 consecutive campaigns with 20+ victories was the longest in the Southeastern Conference and fifth-longest nationally. He is also one of only eight coaches that have ever won 20+ games in 14 or more consecutive seasons.

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Fastbreak: Florida whips Tennessee 66-49, earns Gators coach Billy Donovan career win No. 500

Just days after turning in an embarrassing performance on the road, the Florida Gators picked themselves up and came through for head coach Billy Donovan with a dominant 66-49 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The victory gave Donovan an even 500 wins for his career, making him the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach the mark.

Florida (14-15, 7-9 SEC) had one of its best showings of the season against Tennessee (14-14, 6-10 SEC), due in large part to the return of one of the Gators’ best players.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: With less than four minutes to play, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill took off on a fastbreak, driving the lane and laying in a basket to put Florida back on top by 19 points. Hill, who finished with seven points (three layups) and seven assists to just two turnovers, played a composed game and helped lead UF to victory.

Significant stretch: Soon after redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith rose up and drained his fourth trey of the evening (on four attempts), pushing Florida’s lead to a game-high 23 points, Tennessee went off on a shot 8-2 run to cut its deficit to 15 points with just over seven minutes to play. UT was unable to progress from there.

Prominent player: Finney-Smith’s return cannot be overlooked. Though other Gators played well, he led the way with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, draining his first four treys (4-of-5 overall) and grabbing a game-high 10 boards with one block.

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: Florida whips Tennessee 66-49, earns Gators coach Billy Donovan career win No. 500

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers – Time running out for UF to improve

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Kara Lawson)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 134/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Donnie Tyndall
Record: 13-15 (6-9 SEC) Record: 14-13 (6-9 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U 116

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Florida Gators reinstate F Dorian Finney-Smith; G Eli Carter (health) questionable

After missing three games while serving a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been reinstated by head coach Billy Donovan ahead of Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Finney-Smith, whose absence has played a role in Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) dropping two of its last three contests, is the Gators’ second-leading scorer and top rebounder, averaging 12.9 points and 5.8 boards per game. He’s also the most efficient all-around shooter on the team, hitting 47.5 percent of his field goals and 39.8 percent of his long-range attempts.

“He’s taken care of all his responsibilities and everything we’ve asked him to do,” Donovan said in a statement posted to the school’s website. “I still feel like he needs to understand that when it comes to some of the choices he’s made there are other people affected by it. From my perspective, he’s got to earn back some trust from our team and show a higher level of commitment, especially being an older guy.”

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TWO BITS: Scottie Wilbekin, Percy Harvin, Franco

1 » Former Florida Gators point guard Scottie Wilbekin, a rookie in Australia’s National Basketball League, continues to lead the Cairns Taipans towards the organization’s first title. With the best record in team history, the Taipans (21-7) defeated the Perth Wildcats 71-64 on Friday in the NBL Semifinals. Wilbekin, Cairns’ Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, registered game-highs of 23 points and 10 rebounds while going 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 6-for-6 at the charity stripe. He also posted four assists and two turnovers in 36:38. Taipans coach Aaron Fearne believes Wilbekin should be under strong consideration for league MVP honors, especially if he leads Cairns all the way to a title. “He’s extremely valuable to us and has been a big focus for opposition teams. For a 21-year-old to come out and have the impact he’s had, he should be a frontrunner (for MVP honors) in my opinion,” Fearne told The Cairns Post on Thursday.

A source close to Wilbekin told OnlyGators.com that the former Gators star will enter the NBA D-League immediately upon returning to the United States. He will join the league’s free agent pool therefore be available to get signed by any team.

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Florida Gators postpone $60 million renovation to Stephen C. O’Connell Center for one year

The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that a planned $60 million renovation to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been postponed one year.

Citing an “aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team,” the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association will no longer push the project forward at the conclusion of the 2014-15 basketball season.

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings,” said new school president Kent Fuchs in a release. “It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right.”

According to Florida, the new construction management team’s design plan is “about 60 percent complete.”

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Florida Gators extend apparel contract with Nike

A Nike program since 1999, the Florida Gators recently signed a seven-year extension with the industry leader, pushing their contract through April 1, 2024.

According to the Portland Business Journal, which obtained a copy of Florida’s contract the week of Jan. 15, the Gators will receive “$3.1 million in Nike product this academic year, one of the highest product allowances in the country and up from the $2.1 million it was previously due.” That total will increase by $100,000 every two years, concluding with a $3.5 million allowance for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons.

In other words, UF will receive a combined total of $2.1 million more in equipment and apparel over the next two seasons than was originally agreed upon when it last signed a contract with Nike in 2013, along with a total over the subsequent five seasons that will provide it with one of the highest allowances in the country.

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Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

If the Florida Gators on the roster Tuesday had any respect for head coach Billy Donovan, they certainly did not show it. Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) was embarrassed once again this season as the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, losers of 13-straight games, upended the Gators 64-52.

The Missouri Tigers (8-20, 2-13 SEC) dominated the visitors over the latter 20 minutes of Tuesday’s contest, outscoring Florida 37-21 in the second half while ending the game on a 24-5 run at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.

Donovan had no choice but to sit back and watch as his team struggled on both ends of the court, combining poor shooting in every facet of the game with lacking effort on defense and terrible decision making throughout the contest.

“We really made a lot of, really a lot of poor choices, things that — to be quite honest — left me scratching my head,” Donovan said. “We had Kasey Hill reaching across the out of bounds line for a technical foul, an Eli Carter foul before the ball ever came in bounds while the game was obviously in reach, a Devin Robinson foul. Our fouling enabled them to get to the free throw line. With 13 minutes to go we’re in the bonus and we never really could take advantage of it. For us, we got to the free throw line 23 times, which is drastically more than we normally go, but certainly hard to win when you go 9-for-23. Even when we did get there, we weren’t able to capitalize. We just didn’t make enough smart basketball plays in the game.”

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Missouri guard Namon Wright bombed in a three-pointer with 4:16 remaining, pushing the hosts ahead by six and putting Florida in a deficit that it was unable to overcome. Wright, who averaged 5.4 points on 32 percent shooting entering Tuesday’s game, scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, hitting 6-of-8 treys. The Tigers only increased their lead from there. “We didn’t really have anybody [who could cover him],” Donovan said. “Give him credit. He really got it going, shot the ball very well. Tonight, he was a hard match-up for us. We really didn’t have anybody who could stop him.”

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

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