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.

Continue Reading » Florida-Alabama preview: Prather still hobbled

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Florida-Alabama preview: Donovan talks status of Walker, Grant, three-point defense

Location: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, AL [Capacity: 15,383]
Date/Time: Thursday at 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Rece Davis, Bob Knight)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

href=”http://www.gatorzone.com/basketball/men/bios.php” target=”_blank”>Roster

| Schedule

(6) FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 15-2 (4-0 SEC) Record: 8-9 (2-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5 | O/U: 123.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama actually leads Florida 73-62 in the all-time series, but the Gators boast a 19-5 record under Donovan. UF has won seven-straight against UA and nine of the last 10 games in the series. However, the Gators are 17-47 on the road against the Crimson Tide (5-3 under Donovan) with three consecutive victories.
» Florida is on a nine -game winning streak and has won 14 of its last 15 games.
» Donovan is 12-2 against his former assistants, 6-0 going head-to-head with Grant.
» The Gators are 67-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 7-2 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 3-2 in true road games this season.
» UF has used seven different starting lineups in 17 games.

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SEC Tournament – Gameday: Florida vs. Alabama

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 18,160]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: ABC/ABCHD (Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes, Shannon Spake)
SiriusXM: 126/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: None | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (4) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 25-6 (14-4 SEC) Record: 21-11 (12-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -11.5 | O/U 117

ANOTHER INJURY; TOUGH PRACTICES

After Friday’s victory, Donovan explained that senior forward Erik Murphy suffered a knee contusion during practice on Wednesday and was limited for the rest of the week. Murphy wound up having a career game on Friday, registering career-highs of 27 points and 12 rebounds despite wearing a brace on his knee during the contest.

“I just was feeling a little pain in it in practice and wanted to be cautious coming into the tournament and just pretty much treated it, iced it and went a little sleep. But it’s fine,” Murphy said after the game.

Donovan, however, was worried that Murphy may not even be available to play.

“I was concerned because the trainer was concerned. He didn’t practice. It was really bizarre,” he explained. “We had just finished a stretch, and we were doing just some going through like pick-and-roll coverage. It wasn’t even a contact drill, more of a teaching drill. He kind of planted his foot and went to turn. He felt something, had kind of a sharp pain in his knee. Didn’t know what it was. They pulled him out. He went back in the training room and then came back out and it was still bothering him. And the trainer felt like it was in his knee joint and really didn’t know what it was.

“Nothing showed up on the MRI. It was negative. That night he started to feel progressively better. There was no swelling. There was nothing on the MRI. So, more than anything else, we felt like everything was fine. At the time they were concerned. Not being a doctor, I don’t know, I just go by what they tell me. They were concerned. I think when the MRI came back later that night and it was clean, I think we felt like he was going to be able to play, wouldn’t be a problem.”

Donovan was quite pleased with how Murphy and the rest of the Gators performed on Friday coming off of the first significant amount of practice time the team has had with a full complement of players.

Read the rest of the Florida-Alabama gameday preview…after the break!
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Gameday: No. 6/8 Florida Gators vs. Alabama

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

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Mark Jones, Jimmy Dykes)
SiriusXM: 85 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

No. 6/8 FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 22-5 (12-3 SEC) Record: 19-9 (11-4 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -16 | O/U 120

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 73-60, but the Gators are 17-5 against the Crimson Tide under Donovan. UF is 38-19 all-time against UA in Gainesville including 8-0 since Donovan took over.
» Donovan is 4-0 against Grant, his former assistant coach.
» Florida is undefeated at home this season and has started 13-0 in the O’Dome for the sixth time under Donovan (second in the last three seasons).
» Four Gators starters are averaging double figures in scoring. The Tigers have three players that score in double digits on average.
» Florida is 47-5 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponents under 71 points in a game (21-4 in 2012-13).
» Alabama has won five of its last six games, an impressive feat considering the Crimson Tide lost six of eight over a five-week span from Dec. 1, 2002 to Jan. 8, 2013. UA’s lone loss in its last six games was in a triple-overtime thriller at LSU.
» The Gators are 4-1 against top-25 opponents this season after going 3-5 against ranked adversaries last season with all five losses coming to top-three teams.
» Florida is 0-4 this season in single-digit decisions; Alabama is 8-2 in similar contests.
» The Gators are second nationally in scoring margin (+29.6), third in scoring defense (53.5), seventh in field goal defense (.375), eighth in field goal percentage (.489), ninth in three-point shooting (8.7 per game) and assist-turnover ratio (1.40), 20th in turnover margin (3.4), 21st in assists (15.8), and 24th in three-point percentage (.384) and three-point defense (.300).
» Florida is also seventh nationally in fouling, committing 14.1 per game.
» The Crimson Tide is 16th nationally in steals (9.0) and 20th in scoring defense (58.2).

INJURY REPORT

FLORIDA
» Active: Freshman Michael Frazier II (back), junior Casey Prather (facial laceration)
» Questionable: Junior Will Yeguete (knee)

Read the rest of the Florida-Alabama preview with much more after the break!
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 6/8 Florida Gators vs. Alabama

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Moultrie, Fowler, Donovan

1 » Despite well-documented problems off the field (marijuana arrests) and a number of questions about his maturity (four children under the age of four supposedly by three different women), former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins continues to be a hot name for teams looking for secondary talent in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Detroit Lions have recently emerged as a team in serious contention for Jenkins’s services with the No. 23 overall pick. However, the team and its front office are undoubtedly doing their due diligence on Jenkins. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions met with Jenkins at the 2012 Under Armour Senior Bowl and “are expected to host him on a visit” soon. When asked about him in particular, general manager Martin Mayhew played coy: “Wouldn’t you like to know that?” he said. “Like I said, we’ve got a lot of work to do in the process, and we haven’t done it all.”

2 » Florida senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie picked up a second weekly award on Tuesday as she was named the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week for her dominant performance the prior weekend. Moultrie went 8/11 with two home runs, three doubles, four RBIs, six runs and a stolen base as UF swept Arkansas on the road. She was also named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday for her efforts.

3 » In a question-and-answer session with ESPN, Gators five-star defensive end/Buck linebacker commitment Dante Fowler, Jr. divulged some specifics about his personality and excitement to don the orange and blue sooner than later. Fowler noted not only that he recently got some advice from junior Buck LB Ronald Powell but also that he is “actually like a big teddy bear” instead of a “big, mean person” that some think he is just because he plays football. “People might say that I’m kind of shy because I put my head down when I talk and stuff,” he said. “But I’m a big teddy bear. My favorite TV show is iCarly. I’m going to be a big teddy bear off the field, but on the field I’m all business.”

4 » USA Today has released a compiled list of the salaries of the 68 head coaches participating in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida’s Billy Donovan came in No. 4 on the list in terms of total pay, earning $3.64 million for 2011-12 with a maximum bonus of $454,000. Though Donovan’s salary and bonuses are high, they are very much in-line with what Kansas’ Bill Self ($3.63M, $425K max bonus) and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo ($3.60M, $425K max bonus) bring in annually. The only men above Donovan are Kentucky’s John Calipari ($5.39M, $850K max bonus), Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($4.81M, $575K max bonus) and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($4.70M). Alabama’s Anthony Grant ($1.84M, $415K max bonus) is ranked No. 18 on the list and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart ($1.21M, $621K max bonus) checks in at No. 30.

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3/9: (4) Florida vs. (5) Alabama post-game notes

The No. 19/22 Florida Gators squeaked out a 66-63 victory against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday in the second round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament. Before Florida can advance to take on the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. on ABC, head coach Billy Donovan and a handful of players met with the media to discuss the hard-earned win.

FLORIDA PUTS FORTH A PRAISEWORTHY EFFORT

After being admonished by Donovan for the way they played in Athens, GA four games ago, Florida received praise from their head coach on Friday for executing well for the third-straight game. He was especially pleased with the way the team practiced during the week but did offer one criticism of the Gators’ game.

“This time of year, you got to find ways to advance and move on and we did,” he said. “I thought we had some opportunities both in the first half and the second half to really extend our lead and we weren’t able to do that. We got it up by 12, and I thought our defense hurt us in terms of let ting them get back into the game and tie it.”

Florida had multiple six-point leads and went up a game-high 12 points mid-way through the second half but allowed Alabama to tie it up. Though the Gators shot poorly (38.5 percent from the field) in the contest, Donovan blamed UF’s defense for allowing UA to stop their scoring stretch and tie things up.

“The problem was on the defensive end of the floor. We would get a stop and we wouldn’t come down with the ball, wouldn’t come down with the rebound,” he said. “They came down with it, and it gave them an extra possession in the game. And they didn’t have a lot of offensive rebounds, but I think they had some timely possessions, where they got the ball back. That kind of shut down our run.”

Donovan noted that Florida hitting 10 threes – even though the Gators were not exceptionally proficient from beyond the arc – was easily the difference in the game, calling treys “the greatest equalizer in college basketball.” He continued, “You can sometimes overcome a tough defensive night if you make enough threes and the other team doesn’t, and I think that’s what happened today.”

Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, formerly an assistant under Donovan, took the exact same stance on the outcome of the contest.

“You look at it, probably the difference in the game was the 3-point line,” he said. “Florida was able to make 10 threes. We knew coming into the game that that would be key. But they had some guys that stepped up, made some contested ones, very difficult from a defensive standpoint to be able to contain them. [...] Florida did a good job attacking the paint and just finding open guys and making the extra pass, and that’s what their team do. Erv[ing Walker], he got going and started looking for his teammates and opened things up. They just played to their identity.”

BEAL AND MURPHY LEAD THE WAY FOR THE GATORS

Though he injured his ankle against Kentucky on Sunday, freshman guard Bradley Beal was 100 percent healthy for Friday’s game. Donovan said that he sat out practice on Monday and Tuesday but returned to practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday and was perfectly fine for the contest.

“It didn’t hurt at all,” Beal said after the game. I was 100 percent [Friday]. It really didn’t bother me. I should be good to go [against Kentucky]. I’m fine.”

Beal notched team-highs in points (16), rebounds (seven) and assists (five) but struggled mightily with his scoring in the second half. He hit 3-of-4 threes in the first half but finished the game 3-for-11 from the field, scoring nearly half of his points from the free throw line, where he went 7-of-8.

That is probably part of the reason why he credits Florida’s defense for the win.

“We had to bear down and play defense, because like coach always tells us, he says every night we’re not going to make a lot of shots like we usually do. So this has kind of been a trend for us these last couple games of not making shots, so we really had to bear down on defense and guard guys,” he said.

Junior forward Erik Murphy, who was an efficient 5-of-11 from the field for 15 points, said he is proud of how much confidence the Gators played with on Friday.

“We got the win today. I think we always play with confidence, and I don’t think that’s a problem for us,” he said. “If we continue to defend and make shots, I think we can beat anybody. We just got to play and stay together.”

Beal concurred. “I believe our confidence is a big thing for our team,” he added. “We don’t ever lose confidence in ourselves. We always encourage each other to keep shooting the ball. And even though the shots don’t fall, there’s other things in the game that we can do to impact and try to get the win.”

Donovan pointed out one of those very things and noted that Murphy in particular has improved greatly in that area.

“The one thing our guys are starting to figure out is when teams switch and do a lot of different stuff, we got to find a way to take advantage of them,” he said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that today here with [Murphy].”

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