The Fastbreak: No. 7 Florida Gators escape Barry with a 79-70 exhibition victory

No. 7 Florida Gators basketball participated in its final tune-up for the 2014-15 season when it faced the Barry Buccaneers in an exhibition game on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The Gators took down the Bucs 79-70, winning their 24th exhibition opener in a row and improving to 38-2-1 in such games under Donovan.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with seven quick-hitters:

It was over when: With less than 90 seconds remaining, freshman point guard Chris Chiozza found redshirt junior guard Eli Carter in the corner for a wide-open three-pointer that put the Gators up 13. Carter drained it with ease and finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, draining 5-of-9 attempts from beyond the arc. Chiozza dished three assists and did not commit a single turnover in 14 minutes.

Prominent player: Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith was the most consistent and effective player on the court for Florida, posting a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 5-of-10 shots from the field, 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 3-of-4 at the charity stripe.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
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2014-15 Florida basketball primer: Can the Gators keep it going with a rebuilt starting five?

Despite losing four senior starters to graduation, Florida Gators basketball will enter the 2014-15 season as the consensus No. 7 team in the nation, coming off its return to the Final Four for the first time since 2006-07.

Florida finished the 2013-14 campaign with a program-best 36-3 record, winning a program-record 30-straight games at one point and dropping its three contests to a pair of opponents including twice to eventual national champion UConn. UF beat Kentucky thrice (including in the finals of the 2014 SEC Tournament), became the first SEC team to finish 18-0 in league play (21-0 including the SEC Tournament), and went undefeated (17-0) in the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The Gators also captured their second-straight SEC regular-season crown and swept both SEC championship titles for just the second time in program history (2007).

Though none of Florida’s four seniors were selected in the 2014 NBA Draft, three were given tryouts with NBA teams and center Patric Young caught on with the New Orleans Pelicans as an undrafted free agent.

Head coach Billy Donovan, entering his 19th year with the program coming off his third SEC Coach of the Year award in four seasons, will look to lead UF to at least the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth-straight season. He brings two new transfers and one of the nation’s best recruiting classes into the fold, though not all of the players will be available this season.

Here’s what Donovan (451-169, 195-100 SEC) has to work with as the Gators prepare for their exhibition game on Thursday evening in Gainesville, Florida.

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11/4: Donovan wants Gators to shut up and play

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Tuesday, two days before his team takes the court for an exhibition game against Barry University on Thursday ahead of the 2014-15 regular-season opener.

SHUT UP AND PLAY

Sources told OnlyGators.com over the weekend that the Florida-VCU “secret scrimmage” held on Nov. 1 went swimmingly, at least for the teams’ respective offenses. Donovan basically confirmed that information on Tuesday.

“Defensively, we have a really, really long way to go. And I think a lot of it, to be honest with you, is just we’re not very cohesive at all right now,” he said.

What Donovan is speaking to specifically is the fact that the Gators currently have too many voices in the huddle. Though the players are coming from a good place – trying to improve as leaders by following in the footsteps of last year’s seniors – that is not exactly what Florida needs right now.

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Florida basketball opens at No. 7 in top 25 polls

Florida Gators basketball will open the 2014-15 campaign ranked No. 7 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ Polls, the former of which saw its preseason edition released on Friday.

Losing four senior starters to graduation, Florida will kick off its season in two weeks on Friday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. against William & Mary. First, the Gators will host Barry University in an exhibition contest on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Kentucky is ranked as the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, garnering 76-of-97 combined first-place votes (.784). Arizona is the consensus preseason No. 2 with Duke, Kansas and Wisconsin – in different orders – rounding out the top five of both polls.

Florida will face Kentucky (No. 1/1) twice during league play and take on both Kansas (No. 5/5) and UConn (No. 17/15) in non-conference action.

UF could also face Wisconsin (No. 2/4), North Carolina (No. 6/6) and/or Oklahoma (No. 19/19) as part of the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

AP Top 25
Preseason 1-5: Kentucky (52), Arizona (5), Wisconsin (8), Duke, Kansas
6-10: North Carolina, Florida, Louisville, Virginia, Texas
11-15: Wichita State, Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, VCU
16-20: San Diego State, UConn, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ohio State
21-25: Nebraska, SMU, Syracuse, Michigan, Utah

USA Today Coaches’ Poll
Preseason 1-5: Kentucky (24), Arizona (3), Duke (2), Wisconsin (3), Kansas
6-10: North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Louisville, Texas
11-15: Wichita State, Villanova, Gonzaga, Iowa State, UConn
16-20: VCU, San Diego State, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ohio State
21-25: Nebraska, SMU, Michigan, Syracuse, Iowa

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Donovan: Gators need conviction, commitment

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Thursday, one week before his team takes the court for an exhibition game against William & Mary ahead of the 2014-15 regular-season opener.

WANTING CONVICTION AND COMMITMENT OR “WE ARE NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING” OR 95 PERCENT OF THE GAME

One week before Florida takes the court in the Stephen C. O’Connell center, Donovan has unleashed his season-long mantra: convicted and committed. In other words, Donovan wants the Gators to be strong, resolute and dedicated – to his coaching, to their teammates and to the program as a whole.

Donovan has seen some early returns from his team’s first few practices, but he nevertheless took his standard pessimistic stance on the team’s overall play so close to the start of the season.

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2014-15 NBA season begins with 12 former Florida Gators spread across 11 teams

The 2014-15 NBA season tips off on Tuesday night with 12 former Florida Gators on active rosters, tied with Arizona for sixth-most across the league.

Those players are spread out over 11 teams with only the Golden State Warriors employing more than one former Gators star on their roster.

Below is a primer on all 12 Florida players (five starters, seven reserves) ahead of the 2014-15 season.

STARTERS

C JOAKIM NOAH, Chicago Bulls
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 9 overall pick
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 232 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2013-14)

Already a popular player and stalwart in Chicago, Noah broke through during his seventh season to capture the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and earn nominations to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team. He averaged career-highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.2 steals, earning a trip to his second-straight All-Star game in the process. One year after becoming the seventh player in NBA history to record a triple-double with double-digit blocks, Noah became just the fourth center in NBA history to register four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. He was also the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four in a single season. Noah enters the 2014-15 campaign coming off knee surgery and is expected to be limited at times during the season.

PF/C AL HORFORD, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted: 2007: 1st round, No. 3 overall pick
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 250 lbs.
Year: Eighth | All-Star: Twice (2010-11)

One of the most underrated players in the league, due in large part to his team (Atlanta) and in ability to stay on the court, Horford has become the Hawks’ unquestioned leader and go-to player. In just 29 games last season, the second in three that has been cut short early due to a torn pectoral, Horford averaged a career-high 18.6 points per game on a career-best .567 shooting. Though he has not been selected to an NBA All-Star team since 2001, Horford plans to make his way back this year with his eyes set on a 20-10 average.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

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Billy Donovan offers support for Florida’s football coach, again: ‘I am a huge Will Muschamp fan’

For the second time in 10 days, Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan went out of his way to openly praise Will Muschamp, standing behind Florida’s embattled football coach as Muschamp faces a likely dismissal following his team’s poor start to the 2014 season.

Last Wednesday, Donovan said he had an “enormous amount of respect” for Muschamp, noting that he took over a challenging situation in 2011 and dealt with an insane number of injuries in 2013. Donovan even revealed that he had Muschamp speak with the basketball team this past summer in order to enlighten players on how quickly success can turn into struggle.

During an appearance on an ESPN.com college basketball podcast that was published on Friday, Donovan went even further in his support of Muschamp.

“I will tell you this: I am a huge Will Muschamp fan,” he said.

Continue Reading » Billy Donovan offers support for Florida’s football coach, again: ‘I am a huge Will Muschamp fan’

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