Finney-Smith emerging at right time for Florida

The reigning SEC Sixth Man of the Year, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been a model of consistency for the Florida Gators over the last month.

Consider this: Finney-Smith is averaging team-highs of 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game since Dec. 8, all while hitting 56.0 percent of his field goals and 43.2 percent of his threes during that eight-game stretch.

Through the first half of Florida’s season, Finney-Smith is more accurate than sharp-shooting junior guard Michael Frazier II and simply more effective than anyone else on the Gators’ roster despite the fact that he missed two games and was severely limited in five others after suffering two hairline fractures in his non-shooting hand. He said after Saturday’s game that he feels close to 100 percent healthy.

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Donovan looking for more from Walker and Hill

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan met with the media on Monday to discuss his team’s busy week ahead, which includes two games in a three-day span. He also broke down recent Gators suspensions and some struggles being faced by his pair of five-star, second-year standouts.

BETTER BUT NOT QUITE THERE YET

There is no question that sophomore center Chris Walker has played better in his second season at Florida, though to this point his contributions continue to be more style than substance – a fact not lost on his coach.

Through his first 13 games, Walker is averaging just 5.8 points and 4.1 boards, struggling mightily at times. Outside of a three-game stretch in December when he combined to score 37 points on 17-for-28 shooting (.607) with seven blocks, Walker has scored 39 points while hitting just 43-of-163 shots (.264) with 11 blocks in his other 10 games.

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Billy Donovan returns as coach for USA Basketball in FIBA U19 World Championship

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan has been retained to continue leading USA Basketball during the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship set to take place from June 27-July 5 in Crete, Greece.

Donovan, a court coach during the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp, will return for his third stint as head coach while looking for his fourth international gold medal. He led American teams that that won gold in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

Donovan is the first repeat U19 head coach in USA Basketball history.

He is 19-0 with three gold medals, going 5-0 in both FIBA Americas U18 Championships that he coached and 9-0 in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship two summers ago in Prague, Czech Republic. His three United States national teams combined have won their 19 games by an average of 43.7 points.

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Florida vs. Mississippi State: Frazier ill, Horford out, Donovan wants Gators to improve culture

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: Fox Sports Networks (James Bates, Daymeon Fishback)
Streaming Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

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

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Rick Ray
Record: 8-6 (1-0 SEC) Record: 7-7 (0-1 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: -17.5 | O/U 115

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Fastbreak: Florida slides by South Carolina 72-68

Florida Gators basketball (8-6, 1-0 SEC) bounced back from a tough end to its non-conference slate to earn a closer-than-it-should-have-been 72-68 victory over the surging South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4, 0-1 SEC) on Wednesday evening at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.

“The thing that was encouraging to me was I felt like we battled and fought as a group, collectively together as a team. For me, that was a step in the right direction for this group,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the victory.

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

It was over when: Leading by five with less than a minute to play, redshirt senior forward Jacob Kurtz hit two clutch free throws to push Florida ahead by seven. South Carolina responded with a corner three by Mindaugas Kacinas to cut its deficit to four with 34.1 remaining, and Kacinas hit another trey – following two free throws from redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith – to make it a three-point game. Junior guard Michael Frazier II then stepped up to hit two free throws to increase his team’s lead to five only to see freshman point guard Chris Chiozza foul the Gamecocks on a made layup, cutting UF’s advantage to two with 6.4 seconds left. Redshirt junior G Eli Carter was the last Florida player at the line, solidifying his team’s lead at four points with two made free throws; Kacinas missed another triple attempt at the buzzer. The Gators went 8-for-8 from the charity stripe over the final 43 seconds.

Significant stretch: Struggling early in the second half, Florida took advantage of a seven-minute field goal drought for South Carolina with a 13-2 run started by a game-tying triple from Frazier. The Gators used a trey by Finney-Smith and three free throws to take a 54-46 lead with less than nine minutes to play. UF held on to that advantage for most of the remainder of the game.

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Gameday: Florida Gators at South Carolina Gamecocks; Horford and Hodskins suspended

Location: Colonial Life Arena – Columbia, South Carolina [Capacity: 18,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Jon Sundvold)
Streaming Video: SECNetwork.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

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

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 7-6 (0-0 SEC) Record: 9-3 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Pick ‘Em | O/U 125

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The Silver Lining: ‘Inconsistent’ Florida Gators struggling to find themselves as SEC play begins

The schedule has been difficult, but Florida Gators (7-6) basketball is off to its worst start since the 1996-97 season, head coach Billy Donovan’s first at the helm of the program and a campaign in which Florida started with the same record through 13 games and finished the season 13-17.

While it is quite unlikely that the Gators end 2014-15 with a sub-.500 record, Florida is not trending upward like many expected now that its roster is at full strength.

“I don’t really look at the record as much as much as how we’re playing,” Donovan said Monday.

Well, UF is not playing well either. And he is quite aware.

The Gators do not have a signature non-conference win despite a 13-game slate filled with tough opponents. Florida is 210th nationally in scoring, 177th in rebounding, 131st in assists and one of the worst in the country in both getting to the charity stripe and making free throws once there.

Simply put, there is not much going right for the Gators, which went from undeserved preseason No. 7 to a team that is no longer even garnering votes in the top 25 polls. No ranked opponent has more than three losses; UF has double that many with five of six coming in single-digit defeats.

Florida is floundering in every facet of the game except defense, and Donovan knows exactly why.

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Fastbreak: Gators falter late, again, as UConn tops Florida 63-59 in Gainesville

Florida Gators basketball (7-6) once again collapsed in the second half despite holding a double-digit lead, falling 63-59 to the UConn Huskies (7-5) on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Without a single signature non-conference win, the Gators are suddenly in serious danger of missing the 2015 NCAA Tournament as they enter Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday in need of a major turnaround.

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

It was over when: Trailing 57-56 with 39 seconds remaining, Florida redshirt sophomore forward Alex Murphy missed back-to-back free throws, and UConn extended its advantage with two free throws by guard Ryan Boatright. On the ensuing possession, Gators sophomore center Chris Walker went to the charity stripe to cut his team’s deficit but missed both of his attempts as well with the Huskies holding on from there.

Significant stretch: Florida opened the second half on a 7-0 run, extending its lead to a game-high 13 points. It would not last long, however, as UConn outscored its hosts 23-9 over an extended stretch, using a 10-0 run to take its first lead of the game at 54-53 with 5:36 to play. UF led for 31:59 in the contest but never re-took the lead once it slipped away.

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