SEC Tournament Fastbreak: (8) Florida Gators take down (9) Alabama 69-61 in opening game

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-16) earned a decisive 69-61 victory over the (9) Alabama Crimson Tide (18-14) on Thursday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan improved to 10-0 all-time against former Gators assistant and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant as UF ensured itself a difficult second-round match-up against (1) Kentucky.

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

It was over when: With Florida’s 11-point lead cut to seven, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill attempted a would-have-been-clutch steal, though Alabama corralled the loose ball and Rodney Cooper drove it to the hoop. Gators redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy stepped in Cooper’s way and drew the offensive foul, sending the Tide’s leading scorer to the bench with five on the afternoon and three minutes left in the game. Redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith drained a three on the ensuing possession, pushing UF’s lead back to 10.

Significant stretch: Finney-Smith and freshman F Devin Robinson drained back-to-back threes, negating an Alabama stretch and giving the Gators a nine-point lead at 49-40 with 12 minutes left. UF would extend that advantage to a game-high 11 points just minutes later. Robinson scored 10 points in the contest, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from the charity stripe.

Continue Reading » SEC Tournament Fastbreak: (8) Florida Gators take down (9) Alabama 69-61 in opening game

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2015 SEC Tournament: Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – Now or never

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

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

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (9) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 15-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 18-13 (8-10 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -4

IT’S NOW OR NEVER FOR THE GATORS

Despite the team’s dismal campaign, Donovan’s worst since his second season at Florida (1997-98) … despite the Gators averaging their fewest points per game (64.0) since 1950-51 … despite UF being so inefficient from the foul line that the term “free throw” has become ironic (.632 is its worst mark since 1951-52) … despite all of that, Florida enters the SEC Tournament on Monday on equal footing with the rest of the league.

It will likely take at least one win – if not two – to give the Gators a chance at earning an NIT berth. It will assuredly require winning the tournament outright for Florida to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth-straight year. And if you ask Donovan, this particular UF squad is as ready as it will ever be for this test.

“Hopefully, they’re excited to play. You’re getting a chance to go somewhere and play at a neutral site. It’s an opportunity to play again. I think our guys, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten better as a team,” he said on Tuesday.

“Better” is a relative term when it comes to these Gators. Injuries and suspensions have limited how much Florida has been able to develop as a complete unit this season, but for team with known talent deficiencies (according to Donovan), the Gators’ schedule – one of the toughest in the nation – did not do it any favors either.

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Florida Gators to open 2015 SEC Basketball Tournament vs. Alabama Crimson Tide + Bracket

Eight-seed Florida Gators men’s basketball (15-16, 8-10 SEC) will take on the nine-seed Alabama Crimson Tide (18-13, 8-10 SEC) in the second round of the 2015 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 12 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The contest, set to tip off at 1 p.m. and air live on the SEC Network, will be the second meeting between the programs this season as the Gators previously defeated the Tide 52-50 on Jan. 27 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan is 22-5 against Alabama with victories in 10-straight meetings and wins in 12 of the last 13 showdowns between the teams. Donovan is also 9-0 all-time against Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, a former Gators assistant.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators to open 2015 SEC Basketball Tournament vs. Alabama Crimson Tide + Bracket

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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.

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

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Florida vs. Alabama post-game: Prather surges, defense struggles, Donovan tempers excitement

No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (21-2, 10-0 SEC) found an offensive surge in the second half on Saturday afternoon to take down the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-14, 3-7 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Following the Gators’ 78-69 victory, head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the contest and his team’s difficult upcoming schedule.

GETTING HIS GROOVE BACK

Senior forward Casey Prather has been dealing with an injured ankle for a couple of weeks, but it seemed to truly start bothering him over the last two games – the first in which he failed to score double-digit points this season. In fact, Prather has looked nothing like the player that has been Florida’s leading scorer all season, combining for just 12 points and four rebounds in those two contests.

Saturday was a much-needed step in the right direction for the Gators’ most improved player, who efficiently scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbed six boards and dished three assists. According to Donovan, Prather was a simple decision away from not even stepping foot on the court.

“[Saturday] morning at about 8:30, I didn’t know if we were going to play him,” he explained. “I really left it up to him. He didn’t feel 100 percent. We had talked about just resting him, maybe just giving him time and see what would happen for our next game. He made the decision that he wanted to play and try it.”

Continue Reading » Florida vs. Alabama post-game: Prather surges, defense struggles, Donovan tempers excitement

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Fastbreak: No. 3 Florida outlasts Alabama 78-69

No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (21-2, 10-0 SEC) pulled away in the second half on Saturday afternoon to pick up a 78-69 home win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (9-14, 3-7 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

UF extended a school record by winning its 15th consecutive SEC home game, a streak that dates back to Jan. 9, 2013. The Gators have also started the season 10-0 in league play for just the second time in school history (11-0, 2006-07) and have posted the second-best start to a season in program history (24-2, 2006-07).

Florida won its 15th-straight game and picked up a victory for the 20th time in its last 21 contests. UF’s 29-game home winning streak is currently tied for longest in the nation.

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

It was over when: Moments after the Crimson Tide cut the Gators’ lead to single digits, sophomore guard Michael Fraizer II drained a wide-open three-pointer to give UF back a 12-point advantage with five minutes to play. UA never got back within seven points. Frazier wrapped things up with 14 points on 3-of-8 shooting from downtown with three dimes, two boards, a steal and a block.

Prominent player (first half): Senior forward Will Yeguete was Florida’s only consistent scorer in the first 20 minutes of the game, matching a season-high with 12 points by cleaning up under the basket. The Gators would not have been tied at the half had it not been for Yeguete’s early contributions. He also grabbed three rebounds, registered two swipes and dished four assists.

Prominent player (second half): Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, going 3-for-4 from downtown over the latter portion of the contest. His long-range shooting and ball handling were largely responsible for the Gators achieving a game-high 15-point lead with about nine minutes to play. He also picked up four boards, three assists and a steal.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 3 Florida outlasts Alabama 78-69

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Florida-Alabama preview: Prather still hobbled

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Dick Vitale)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(3) FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 20-2 (9-0 SEC) Record: 9-13 (3-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -15 | O/U: 123.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama actually leads Florida 73-63 in the all-time series, but the Gators hold a 39-19 advantage over the Tide in games played in the O’Dome and have won eight-straight in the series. Under Donovan, UF is 20-5 against UA (9-0 at home).
» Donovan is 13-2 against his former assistants, 7-0 going head-to-head with Grant.
» Florida and Alabama are squaring off for the second time this season after the Gators earned a 68-62 victory over the Crimson Tide on the road in Tuscaloosa, AL two weeks ago on Jan. 23.
» Florida is currently riding a school-record 28-game home winning streak (third longest in the nation). UF set a program record Tuesday by recording its 14th consecutive home win against league opponents.
» The Gators have opened league play with a 9-0 record for just the second time under Donovan. The school record for best SEC start is 11-0, set in 2007.
» Florida is on a 14-game winning streak and has won 19 of its last 20 games.
» The Gators are 72-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF has started 20-2 through 22 games for the third time in school history. The first two times the Gators achieved that mark, they won the national title (2005-06, 2006-07).
» Florida is 8-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. UF is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» The Gators are 5-2 in true road games this season.

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