Gameday: Florida Gators at Vanderbilt – Shooting woes, inconsistency hindering progress

Location: Memorial Gym – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 14,316]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Kara Lawson)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 12-9 (5-3 SEC) Record: 11-10 (1-7 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -2

SHOOTING WOES HAMSTRING PROGRESS

No matter how much the Gators improve defensively, ultimately the game of basketball requires, well, the ball being put in the basket. And to that end, Florida has been quite terrible this season.

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Florida football flavor at Gators basketball game

Saturday’s basketball game between the Florida Gators and Arkansas had some football flair with new head coach Jim McElwain and outgoing defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. both in attendance to cheer on the Gators.

McElwain made his presence known at halftime when he took the court and publicly addressed the Florida fans in attendance for the first time in his tenure. The crowd gave McElwain a great ovation and even chanted his name before he began speaking.

As nice as it was for the Gators to have McElwain on the court, Fowler made an even bigger impression in the stands. Always known as a fun-loving player, Fowler was spotted by the “Flex Cam” and put on a show, dancing to the Lil’ Jon hit “Turn Down for What.”

Florida beat Arkansas 57-56, winning on a late free throw. Read more about the game, watch some highlights and see what was said after the contest.

The clips above are courtesy of GatorVision, Florida’s video outlet.

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Fastbreak: Florida outlasts Arkansas 57-56

The team did not save its season this week, but a second-straight hard-fought victory should give the Florida Gators (12-9, 5-3 SEC) hope for the duration of the campaign. Florida beat one of the Southeastern Conference‘s best teams this season in the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-5, 5-3 SEC), staving off a late comeback to earn a 57-56 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

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

It was over when: With the ball and a two-point lead with less than a minute to play, Florida went to redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who clanged an open three off the front rim. Arkansas took possession and called timeout with 30 seconds to play and the ability to take the game’s final shot. The Hogs chose to drive to the hoop, drawing a foul and making 1-of-2 attempts at the line; however, Anon Beard grabbed the rebound and immediately made a layup to put Arkansas on top 56-55 with 10 seconds left to play. Florida freshman point guard Chris Chiozza was unable to make a driving layup on the other end, but junior guard Michael Frazier II grabbed his rebound and immediately got fouled, hitting a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to put UF ahead for good. Sophomore PG Kasey Hill then stole the inbounds pass, clinching the victory (see the game-ending play at the bottom of this post).

“I felt like in the game there were a couple moments where we were teetering a little bit, and this game, I really felt like they battled as hard as they could,” head coach Billy Donovan said. Michael Frazier, when he has not made shots, has allowed that to consume him. It’s been two games now where he [has stepped up defensively despite not shooting well]. … That’s been this team’s struggle is that competitive fight. It’s a balance between them being worried about performance and them being worried about competing. When you’re competing, you’re never worried about your performance. … Today, I thought we competed better.”

Significant stretches: Florida and Arkansas fought tooth-and-nail through the first 13-plus minutes of the second half until the Gators began to pull away, using a 7-1 run capped by a three from Finney-Smith to take a game-high nine-point lead at 53-44 with over six minutes left to play. The Hogs, however, were quick to answer with a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to two on the back of Bobby Portis, who scored 10-straight points for the visitors.

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College GameDay at Florida-Kentucky on Feb. 7

ESPN College GameDay will emanate from Gainesville, Florida for the first time since 2012 – in basketball for the first time since 2009 – as the Florida Gators (11-9, 4-3 SEC) host the undefeated and top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (20-0, 7-0 SEC) next Saturday in a showdown of fierce Southeastern Conference rivals.

The game, which is scheduled to tip at 9 p.m. and air live nationally on ESPN, will be preceded by the College GameDay program featuring host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams.

The two-hour ESPN show is split over the course of the day, airing live from 11 a.m. to noon as a kick-off show and returning to air one hour before tip (8 p.m.) for an hour-long pre-game show. There will also be an hour-long taped program on ESPNU at 10 a.m.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – Counting on Dorian Finney-Smith

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS (Spero Dedes, Clark Kellogg)
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mike Anderson
Record: 11-9 (4-3 SEC) Record: 16-4 (5-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -7

JIM MCELWAIN TAKES CENTER COURT

STAR MUST RISE AGAIN

Game-winning dunk aside, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been stuck in one of the worst scoring slumps of his career. Finney-Smith went without a field goal for 61:43 of game clock, going without a basket in the second half against Ole Miss all the way through 39 of the 40 minutes against Alabama.

Once Florida’s leading scorer, Finney-Smith has slid into second behind junior guard Michael Frazier II (who struggled scoring in his own right on Tuesday) in that category, but as a 47.3 percent shooter who hits 40.5 percent of his triples (second-best on the team, ahead of Frazier), the Gators need Finney-Smith’s scoring to help move the needle.

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2 BITS: SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Miller, Hernandez

1 » The Southeastern Conference and Big 12 announced Thursday that the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which began last season, will undergo a significant format change. Instead of being 10 games played over three days in the fall, it will now be 10 games played in one day early in the spring. That date has been set for next season with all 10 games tipping off on Saturday, January 30, 2016, though match-ups have not yet been determined at this time. “Moving the Big 12/SEC Challenge later int he season will raise the profile of this event and give our coaches, student-athletes and fans the attention that it deserves,” said Mike Slive, the SEC’s commissioner. The 10 games will all be played on ESPN networks with the four SEC teams not given match-ups going head-to-head against each other on the SEC Network that day.

The Florida Gators wound up playing a home-and-home series against Kansas in the first two iterations of the event, hosting the Jayhawks last season and travelling to Lawrence, Kansas, this fall. Florida is expected to host an SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in 2015-16, though renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center would have proved that difficult if the game was played during its previously-scheduled window. Whether the event was moved to help accommodate UF remains to be seen, but the scheduling adjustment was not just made for next season but for the duration of the event’s existence.

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Fastbreak: Dorian Finney-Smith helps Florida scrape past Alabama 52-50

The Florida Gators‘ season was not saved on Tuesday night, but Florida (11-9, 4-3 SEC) did avoid blowing yet another double-digit lead as it inched its way past the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-7, 3-4 SEC) in the final seconds of the contest to pull out a 52-50 win at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The Gators, losers of three-straight games, avoided dropping four contests in a row for the first time since 2003-04 as head coach Billy Donovan improved to 10-0 all-time against the Crimson Tide.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:

It was over when: Alabama erased a five-point Florida lead as Ricky Tarrant drained a three (giving him 12 points in the half) with two minutes to play. Still tied with less than 30 seconds left, Gators redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith received a pass beyond the arc, pump faked and drove the lane to finish with a hammer dunk, putting UF up 52-50 with 22 seconds to play. It wound up being the game-winning basket for the Gators, as Finney-Smith delivered a block at the other end to negate a shot attempt and conclude the contest. “It was a little anger, I struggled tonight, but my teammates did a good job staying together when adversity came,” Finney-Smith told ESPN after the game. Added Donovan: “I thought he had a pretty decent look to take a three, it was probably a smart decision to drive it, obviously with the way it finished up. … It was good to see him go to the rim strong like that.”


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Gameday: Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide – Donovan struggling with inconsistent team

Location: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Capacity: 15,383]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 10-9 (3-3 SEC) Record: 13-6 (2-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -1.5

FLORIDA’S JUST ‘NOT OK’

The Gators are not a good team losing games, they’re a floundering group of players still trying to find their footing 19 games into the 2014-15 regular season. This is not opinion, it is fact, and it is Donovan’s unwavering belief, too.

To a similar point, Florida has not played well for 40 minutes in quite a while. It may put together some solid 30-, 20- or 10-minute stretches, but the Gators getting the most out of their abilities for 40 minutes? That is not happening.

“This group is never ‘all right.’ Ever. Ever. They’re not. They’re ‘all right’ when I can see them do it day in and day out. And they really, really struggle in that area. They really, really struggle,” Donovan said on Monday.

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