Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan becomes second-youngest to 500 career wins

Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan on Saturday became the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach 500 career victories.

Donovan (49 years, 271 days) joins former Indiana coach Bob Knight (48 years, 81 days) as the only other man in D-I history to achieve win No. 500 before his 50th birthday.

The vast majority of Donovan’s wins (465) have come with the Gators as he’s led Florida to four Final Fours, three appearances in the national title game and back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.

“You’re only as good as the people around you. It’s really the players, it’s the coaches that I’ve had here. I think people lose sight, a lot of times, that Jeremy [Foley]’s been here since I started. As an athletic director, there’s an incredible bond that he and I have in terms of a shared vision. Not to say we get along and agree on everything, but I think we’re always moving together in the right direction. So there’s been a lot of stability [with Foley and my assistant coaches]. … And there’s been a lot of really, really good players that have come through,” said Donovan after the game.

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Fastbreak: Florida whips Tennessee 66-49, earns Gators coach Billy Donovan career win No. 500

Just days after turning in an embarrassing performance on the road, the Florida Gators picked themselves up and came through for head coach Billy Donovan with a dominant 66-49 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The victory gave Donovan an even 500 wins for his career, making him the second-youngest coach in Division I college basketball history to reach the mark.

Florida (14-15, 7-9 SEC) had one of its best showings of the season against Tennessee (14-14, 6-10 SEC), due in large part to the return of one of the Gators’ best players.

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

It was over when: With less than four minutes to play, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill took off on a fastbreak, driving the lane and laying in a basket to put Florida back on top by 19 points. Hill, who finished with seven points (three layups) and seven assists to just two turnovers, played a composed game and helped lead UF to victory. “He takes responsibility. He knows he has not played great. … He does try to come back. The biggest thing with him that I’d like to see more is he’s just got to get more fire and passion and competitive spirit,” Donovan said. “He gets down on himself. I keep trying to explain to him, ‘If you’re competing, you’ve got to be able to move past that.’”

Significant stretch: Soon after redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith rose up and drained his fourth trey of the evening (on four attempts), pushing Florida’s lead to a game-high 23 points, Tennessee went off on a shot 8-2 run to cut its deficit to 15 points with just over seven minutes to play. UT was unable to progress from there.

Prominent player: Finney-Smith’s return cannot be overlooked. Though other Gators played well, he led the way with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting, draining his first four treys (4-of-5 overall) and grabbing a game-high 10 boards with one block.

“When you’re coming off a suspension and all of a sudden you got to go out there on the court, there can be this level of remorse,” Donovan said. “He’s got to be able to move past it. He served his time. He paid his penalty. It’s over with. He needs to move forward and how he moves forward is really important. I thought he was really locked in and ready to play. I thought he wanted to play well because of what had happened, him missing three games and being out of practice a little bit.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers – Time running out for UF to improve

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Kara Lawson)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 134/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Donnie Tyndall
Record: 13-15 (6-9 SEC) Record: 14-13 (6-9 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U 116

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Florida Gators reinstate F Dorian Finney-Smith; G Eli Carter (health) questionable

After missing three games while serving a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been reinstated by head coach Billy Donovan ahead of Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Finney-Smith, whose absence has played a role in Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) dropping two of its last three contests, is the Gators’ second-leading scorer and top rebounder, averaging 12.9 points and 5.8 boards per game. He’s also the most efficient all-around shooter on the team, hitting 47.5 percent of his field goals and 39.8 percent of his long-range attempts.

“He’s taken care of all his responsibilities and everything we’ve asked him to do,” Donovan said in a statement posted to the school’s website. “I still feel like he needs to understand that when it comes to some of the choices he’s made there are other people affected by it. From my perspective, he’s got to earn back some trust from our team and show a higher level of commitment, especially being an older guy.”

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Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

If the Florida Gators on the roster Tuesday had any respect for head coach Billy Donovan, they certainly did not show it. Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) was embarrassed once again this season as the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, losers of 13-straight games, upended the Gators 64-52.

The Missouri Tigers (8-20, 2-13 SEC) dominated the visitors over the latter 20 minutes of Tuesday’s contest, outscoring Florida 37-21 in the second half while ending the game on a 24-5 run at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.

Donovan had no choice but to sit back and watch as his team struggled on both ends of the court, combining poor shooting in every facet of the game with lacking effort on defense and terrible decision making throughout the contest.

“We really made a lot of, really a lot of poor choices, things that — to be quite honest — left me scratching my head,” Donovan said. “We had Kasey Hill reaching across the out of bounds line for a technical foul, an Eli Carter foul before the ball ever came in bounds while the game was obviously in reach, a Devin Robinson foul. Our fouling enabled them to get to the free throw line. With 13 minutes to go we’re in the bonus and we never really could take advantage of it. For us, we got to the free throw line 23 times, which is drastically more than we normally go, but certainly hard to win when you go 9-for-23. Even when we did get there, we weren’t able to capitalize. We just didn’t make enough smart basketball plays in the game.”

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Missouri guard Namon Wright bombed in a three-pointer with 4:16 remaining, pushing the hosts ahead by six and putting Florida in a deficit that it was unable to overcome. Wright, who averaged 5.4 points on 32 percent shooting entering Tuesday’s game, scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, hitting 6-of-8 treys. The Tigers only increased their lead from there. “We didn’t really have anybody [who could cover him],” Donovan said. “Give him credit. He really got it going, shot the ball very well. Tonight, he was a hard match-up for us. We really didn’t have anybody who could stop him.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators at Missouri Tigers – Billy Donovan goes for win No. 500 with lacking team

Location: Mizzou Arena – Columbia, Missouri [Capacity: 15,061]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Matt Stewart, Darrin Horn)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 119/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS MISSOURI TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kim Anderson
Record: 13-14 (6-8 SEC) Record: 7-20 (1-13 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -7

APPROACHING 500

Likely the last game Florida will be favored in this season, the Gators have a chance to get back in the winning column while providing Donovan with his all-important 500th victory on Tuesday night. Donovan, 49, who will be coaching in his 703rd game, has an opportunity to become the second-youngest coach to 500 wins, only behind the legendary Bobby Knight.

Asked on Monday to look back on his career and achievements – including two national championships and four appearances in the Final Four – Donovan deflected the praise (as usual) and gave a lot of credit to those that have been with him along the way.

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Gameday: Florida Gators at LSU Tigers

Location: Pete Maravich Assembly Center – Baton Rouge, Louisiana [Capacity: 13,215]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Clark Kellogg)
Streaming Video: CBSSports.com | Mobile Video: CBS Sports app

SiriusXM: 119/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS LSU TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Johnny Jones
Record: 13-13 (6-7 SEC) Record: 18-8 (7-6 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +4

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The Fastbreak: Florida edges Vanderbilt 50-47

The Florida Gators avoided losing five-straight games for the first time since 1997-98 by pulling out a hard-fought 50-47 victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Wednesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida (13-13, 6-7 SEC) played the game short-handed yet still managed to get revenge on Vanderbilt (14-12, 4-9 SEC), which upset the Gators on the road two weeks ago.

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

It was over when: Vanderbilt forward James Siakam pieced together a personal 5-0 run – including a spin move dunk and old-school three-point play – to put the visitors on top 45-44 with 1:24 to play. The teams traded buckets, and Florida sophomore point guard Kasey Hill had an opportunity at the line to give his team back the lead but missed both free throws. Following a missed VU attempt from the charity stripe, UF got consecutive offensive possessions after a missed three from freshman forward Devin Robinson was deflected out of bounds. That is when Hill drove into the lane only to find Robinson for a go-ahead dunk. Two free throws from freshman PG Chris Chiozza iced the victory for the home team.

“I was proud. I could see Kasey fighting it. I could just see his body language was not good after the two free throws. I watched him, and I think he tried to gather and regroup himself. And I’m glad he did that; he kept himself in the game,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought our guys competed and battled. It’s just that, you know, offensively it is an absolute struggle – a struggle.”

Significant stretch: Struggling to score and trailing by six, the Gators suddenly retook the lead against the Commodores thanks to an 13-0 run that included a five-point trip. Redshirt junior guard Eli Carter made a basket, missed the and-one opportunity, grabbed the rebound and registered an assist as junior F Alex Murphy drained a three. UF led by a game-high seven points with six minutes to play as VU went scoreless for 6:14 and without a field goal for 8:31.

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