Florida-Pittsburgh post-game: Gators return to form with Wilbekin, Yeguete, defense to thank

The (1) Florida Gators (34-2) pulled away early in the second half to take down the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) with a 61-45 victory in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

BACK TO FORM

Coming off a widely-panned disappointing performance against Albany, Florida had a choice when it faced Pittsburgh on Saturday – continue its less-than-stellar play and try to squeak out another victory or return to form and regain momentum.

The Gators obviously chose the latter path, which Donovan laid out for his team during practice and game preparation on Friday.

“You always want to play to your identity and who you’ve been and who we’ve been the entire year. I didn’t feel like we did that [on Thursday]. We didn’t play to our identity there, and I was disappointed by that because we really hadn’t done that all year long. That’s why I was disappointed,” he explained.

“I saw things inside of our team that I just did not like. There was nothing bad like in terms of bad attitudes or guys having a problem with one another, there was just this frustration, personal expectation, game not going the way they wanted it to go, and that’s not who we’ve been. I just wanted to make sure they understood that and we got back to who we were. …

“I don’t think any of them disagreed with anything I had to say. And I think that they understood where I was coming from and hopefully that in some way helped us get prepared for this game.”

Continue Reading » Florida-Pittsburgh post-game: Gators return to form with Wilbekin, Yeguete, defense to thank

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Ex-Gators praise (1) Florida after Pittsburgh win

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (34-2) has been strong from former members of the program all season long, and it continued on Saturday after the team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season with a 61-45 victory over the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) in the Round of 32 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. Check out what nearly a dozen former Florida basketball players had to say about their team’s victory.


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Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

The (1) Florida Gators (33-2) pulled away in the second half to escape the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) with a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the tough win.

WHAT WAS THAT?

For a team that has put together its share of blowouts this season, Florida being tied at 39 with Albany in the second half and only defeating a 15-loss team out of the America East by 12 points was understandably deflating. So one cannot blame the Gators for feeling a bit down in the locker room after the game, nor Donovan for being frustrated with UF’s overall performance.

“I’m a little bit baffled with our team right now,” he told the TBS sideline reporter before leaving the court for his post-game press conference.

“I was a little bit disappointed with our defense in the first half. I didn’t think we defended like we normally did,” he said in the media availability. “I thought in the second half we did a much, much better job in that area.”

The Great Danes hit 10 of their first 15 shots but only connected on nine of their last 31 attempts from the field. Nevertheless, the Gators only outscored the underdogs by six points in each half.

Many will chalk up Florida’s struggles to not being “up for the game,” thinking it could handle a 16-seed while playing a second-round game just over 100 miles from its home court. Donovan hopes that is not the case.

Continue Reading » Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida struggles but edges (16) Albany in 2014 NCAA Tournament

Getting more than they bargained for with the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) the overall top seed (1) Florida Gators (33-2) eventually led by just six at the break but pulled away in the second half for a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained a three-pointer from the corner with just over two minutes remaining in the game to push Florida ahead by 12. He was inconsistent throughout most of the contest, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (1-of-4 from deep) with four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers.

Prominent players: Senior center Patric Young achieved his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 boards but saw his flow interrupted in the second half when he picked up a third foul. Senior forward Casey Prather not just scored consistently (team-high 16 points) but also registered three blocks and two steals in the game and had one of the best defensive performances of the day.

Bountiful bench: Despite being listed as questionable entering the game, freshman PG Kasey Hill (turf toe) finished with 10 points on the afternoon. He scored eight in the second half when the Gators broke away from the Great Danes and also picked up two steals, an assist and a board. It was Hill’s first double-digit scoring game since Nov. 16, 2013 when he started for UF at home against Arkansas Little-Rock. Joining him as a big-time contributor was redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith, who was one of two Florida players with a team-high 16 points, most of which came in the first half.

Significant stretch: Tied at 39, UF pieced together a 12-2 run – with four-straight points and a steal from Hill and a big three by sophomore guard Michael Frazier – to get a bit of breathing room and lead Albany by 10 midway through the second half. The Gators eventually increased their advantage to 12 points, which was also their winning margin.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida struggles but edges (16) Albany in 2014 NCAA Tournament

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (16) Albany Great Danes

Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 4:10 p.m. EDT (30 minutes after the conclusion of Colorado-Pittsburgh)

TV: TBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 93/192 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (16) ALBANY GREAT DANES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Will Brown
Record: 32-2 Record: 19-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: America East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 121.5

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history (2007), holding a 6-0 record and national title the previous time it held this ranking entering the tournament.
» No. 1 seeds are 116-0 against No. 16 seeds since 1989. Only 14 of those games have been decided with final margins of victory in single digits.
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Great Danes earned the right to play in the Round of 64 after defeating Mount St. Mary’s 71-64 in first game of the First Four on Tuesday.
» Florida has played 54 games in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 38-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 42 of those 54 games under Donovan, going 31-11 in those contests over 14 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 14-5 in Round of 64 games and has not been knocked out in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2010. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 1-0 all-time against Albany, winning 83-64 in Gainesville, FL on Nov. 10, 2005 in the lone meeting between the programs. The Gators have never lost to an AEC team (6-0, 5-0 under Donovan).
» UF enters Thursday’s second-round game on a program-record 26-game winning streak with victories in 31 of its last 32 games.
» The Gators are 83-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» Florida is 5-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 22-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning four games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (16) Albany Great Danes

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Florida Gators (32-2) rewarded with No. 1 overall seed in 2014 NCAA Tournament

Florida Gators basketball (32-2) has earned the No. 1 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament after a hard-fought season that included winning the regular-season 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship and 2014 SEC Tournament Championship on Sunday.

The Gators will enter the tournament on a program-record 26-game winning streak and have been victorious in 31 of their last 32 games. Florida this season was the first team in league history to go 18-0 in SEC play and became the first team from a major conference to achieve that mark since 1976. UF also became the first SEC team to go 21-0 in league games, including its three tournament victories.

As announced during the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, the Gators have been placed in the South Region and will face the 16-seed – the winner of a Tuesday play-in game between Albany and Mount Saint Mary’s (6:40 p.m., truTV) – in second-round action at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL on Thursday, March 20.

The Gators and their second-round competitor will tip off at approximately 4:05 p.m., 30 minutes after the first game in Orlando, FL concludes. The contest will air live on TBS with Brian Anderson and Dan Bonner on the call.

Florida could advance to face eight-seed Colorado (23-11) or nine-seed Pittsburgh (25-9) on Saturday in third-round action. Other notable teams in UF’s region include two-seed Kansas (24-9), three-seed Syracuse (27-5), four-seed UCLA (26-8), five-seed VCU (26-8), six-seed Ohio State (25-9) and seven-seed New Mexico (27-6).

The Gators are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, the first coming in 2007 when Florida won the second of its back-to-back national titles.

ESPN ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSES FLORIDA AS NO. 1 OVERALL

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12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

The No. 16/18 (for now) Florida Gators (5-2) suffered a tough loss Wednesday night, falling 57-54 to the Central Florida Knights (6-0) in Orlando, FL. Though the upset loss is certainly tough for the Gators to stomach, the way they played appeared to make head coach Billy Donovan queasy. He spoke to the media after the game and had plenty to say about his team’s performance at the Amway Center.

EVEN IF FLORIDA WON, THEY LOST

Some teams steal wins and others – like Florida last year – get lucky with some buzzer beaters, but no matter what happened Wednesday in Orlando, Donovan knew that the Gators were not worthy of any positive recognition should the outcome have gone their way. “We didn’t even deserve to be in that position [to tie or win],” he said. “If we would have won the game, it would have been a complete steal. I would have felt bad for Donnie [Jones]. Nevermind how he would have felt, I would have felt awful for him. I would have gave him the win.”

Though Donovan dismissed the notion that he was “irate” after the upset, he did explain that the team’s “issues are bigger than this loss” though they can be corrected with maximum effort. He continued, “The one thing that’s good with our schedule is, when you play games like this and you play Ohio State, you play on the road at Florida State, your issues flour – they get exposed. Every team’s got issues. How you become a good team is how well you deal with your issues inside your team to get better.”

NOT SELFISH BUT CERTAINLY NOT SELFLESS

Donovan treaded carefully after Wednesday’s game to ensure he did not use world “selfish” when describing his team’s performance. However there is no question that word could certainly be used when discussing how Florida played in the contest.

“We have a group of guys – all of our older guys are way, way too wrapped up in their offense,” Donovan said. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton – you look at their assist-to-turnover ratio last year to this year [and it’s not good].

“You look at, in this game, with the way we were scoring in around the basket, those guys should know just by playing the game [that] the ball needs to go inside. We get wrapped up when we’re not scoring or we’re not getting touches and looks and things like that. We’re not a cohesive team right now, certainly on the offensive end of the floor. The defensive part is easy because they understand if they’re not doing the things they need to do they’re probably going to come out of the game.

“They’re not playing together. They’re not utilizing each other’s individual talents. And the disappointing part is these guys played together last year.”

TEAM LACKS UNDERSTANDING, ISN’T HELPING EACH OTHER

“That’s the part to me that’s a little bit disturbing as a coach,” Donovan said of the team not recognizing that [Vernon] Macklin was on fire and could not be defended. “He got in foul trouble in the first half so he was out with two fouls, but the recognition by your team… I can’t call a play every single time down the floor because there’s transition. When they’re playing they should be seeing the fact that Vernon Macklin is having a big night offensively. The other four guys should be saying, ‘Let’s get Vern the ball.’ But we’re too wrapped up in, ‘I didn’t get a shot now,’ or ‘I missed my last one.’ They’ve got to see those things. Every time I ran a play, I kept running a play at him.

“We don’t have very good chemistry on offense with this group right now at all. And that’s the disappointing part. These are older guys that are less focused on what they can be doing to help the group get better. You always hear the thing: ‘A great player makes everyone else around them better.’ We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better. We’re less concerned about how to do that; we’re more concerned about, ‘How am I doing.’”

PARSONS FAILS TO DELIVER IN RETURN TO HOMETOWN

With approximately 70 tickets distributed to family and friends and a lot of eyes on him Wednesday, senior forward Chandler Parsons appeared to crack under pressure. Though he helped distribute and rebound the ball, Parsons simply played awful in his 32 minutes on the court, going 1-for-9 from the field (0-for-3 from downtown) for two points and 0-6 from the charity stripe (including an air ball). He played so bad, in fact, that his lack of production stood out even though fellow senior F Alex Tyus went 0-for-5 and was held scoreless in 21 minutes.

“Chandler and Vernon last year, they were really on edge about really trying to compete and do the things they needed to do. Chandler – with the way he’s shooting free throws right now – that looked like he was his sophomore year,” Donovan said. “[He’s] just not in the right frame of mind. I don’t know if we’ll be a great free throw shooting team or not, but Chandler’s certainly better than 0-6.”

A career 61.5 percent free throw shooter, Parsons was making them at a 66.6 percent clip before Wednesday’s game. Struggling more is Macklin, who shot 58.8 percent from the line in 2009-10; he is currently shooting 23.1 percent from the stripe.

QUOTES (After the break…)
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Knights upset No. 16 Gators 57-54 in Orlando

Entering the first-ever Florida Citrus Sports Shootout at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL, the No. 16/18 Florida Gators were hoping to build momentum after pulling out an impressive defensive victory against Florida State on Sunday. Instead Florida (5-2) played their worst game in recent memory and fell 57-54 to the up-and-coming Central Florida Knights (6-0).

Led by former Gators assistant Donnie Jones, the Knights had UF and head coach Billy Donovan their heels the entire game. Though the contest was never out of reach for Florida, they failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities – specifically three in the last 30 seconds including a costly turnover by Central Florida.

UCF jumped out to a 28-20 lead in the first half and finished the period up four as guard Marcus Jordan – son of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan – posted nine points to lead his team. UF senior forward Chandler Parsons got off to a rocky start (that would continue the entire game) going only 1-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from the free throw line in the first half.

The Gators got back in the swing of things at the start of the second half, tying the score at 34 on a layup from redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and quick jump shot by junior point guard Erving Walker. A 9-2 run exhibited by the Knights took them back up to their game-high eight-point advantage (44-36), but Florida answered with a 10-0 run to re-take the lead 46-44 just minutes later.

UCF went 0-for-13 from the floor during UF’s run, but while the Gators did erase their deficit, they failed to capitalize on the momentum. The game would go back-and-forth from there with Macklin tightening UCF’s lead to 53-52 with under a minute to go.

Florida got its first big opportunity on an inbounds play from Central Florida with 55.4 seconds left. Sophomore G Kenny Boynton stole the ball on a bad pass and Donovan called a timeout to draw up a play with 44.1 seconds remaining. Boynton got the ball out of the break and missed an open jumper, giving it back to the Knights who wound up with Jordan on the line shooting the one-and-one.

The Gators were still faced with a one possession game after Jordan made both free throws, but Walker and Boynton each missed wide open treys and UCF grabbed the second rebound. Two more free throws and a quick layup by Boynton passed before UF put F Keith Clanton on the line for another one-and-one.

Clanton missed his first free throw, but Macklin knocked an easily corralled rebound out of bounds with what would have been four seconds remaining for Florida.

Jordan matched his first half performance for Central Florida, scoring nine more points and finishing the game with 18 on 6-of-11 shooting. Clanton was just as effective for the Knights, going 4-of-8 for 12 points with nine rebounds.

Macklin was truly the only bright spot for the Gators, shooting an impressive 10-for-11 from the field for a game-high 20 points to go along with a team-high eight boards. Walker scored 16 points of 4-of-7 shooting (2-of-4 from downtown), but he also turned the ball over thrice and only dished it twice. Boynton went 4-of-10 for 10 points but was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and missed some clutch shots.

Parsons and fellow senior F Alex Tyus were dreadful for Florida throughout the night. Parsons finished 1-of-9 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown and 0-for-6 from the line (including an air ball) in front of his hometown crowd. He did, however, grab six boards and hand out five assists. Tyus finished 0-of-5 from the field and was held scoreless only taking down five rebounds in 21 minutes.

Though the Gators shot better than the Knights from the field (42.0-38.2 percent), the team – without Macklin – only made a 28.9 percent of its shots. Florida also out-rebounded Central Florida 37-30, handed out more assists (12-10) and committed less fouls (13-16). However, UF turned the ball over twice as much as UCF (14-7) and was unable to capitalize on the few miscues they did force.

Florida will look to right the ship on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. against American in Washington, D.C. The game will air live on Sun Sports.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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