While team falters, Florida making commitment to O’Connell Center, basketball facilities

Florida Gators basketball (12-11, 5-5 SEC) is on pace for its worst season under head coach Billy Donovan since his first two with the program. It should be no surprise, however, that with Donovan’s track record of immense success and the basketball program’s still-growing national prestige, the Gators continue to invest in the future.

Announced in June with renovations expected to begin in March 2015, the 35-year-old Stephen C. O’Connell Center is set to undergo a massive renovation that will include a “prominent main entrance,” club seating, permanent chair backs, a “center-hung, high-definition video board” with a sound system, concourses and concession stands, offices and locker rooms, and advanced “mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.”

Initially projected to cost $45 million, $10 million of which would be contributed by the University of Florida, the updated price tag is $60 million, athletic director Jeremy Foley said on Monday. UF and the University Athletic Association have contributed with the rest of the $60 million committed via donations.

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Florida G Michael Frazier II expected out Thursday

Treading water and trying to stay afloat for a postseason berth – the NCAA Tournament is basically out of the picture with the NIT a more likely landing spot – the Florida Gators (12-11, 5-5 SEC) will be forced to overcome another speed bump as their leading scorer, junior guard Michael Frazier II was ruled out for Thursday’s game against Ole Miss.

During his weekly press conference on Monday, head coach Billy Donovan declared Frazier unlikely to play on Thursday due to a high-ankle sprain he suffered on Saturday in the first half of Florida’s 68-61 loss to No. 1 Kentucky.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats – Enormous test on a national stage

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS No. 1 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 12-10 (5-4 SEC) Record: 22-0 (9-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +8.5

COLLEGE GAMEDAY

ESPN’s College GameDay will be live from Gainesville for the fourth time in the basketball version of the program’s history – first since 2011. The Gators have been either the host or visitor at the show’s location six times prior, holding a 5-1 record in those games with a perfect 3-0 mark at home in the O’Dome. Five of those previous six contests have come against the Wildcats.

The program will have a taped portion on ESPNU at 10 a.m. followed by a live one-hour show ahead of the day of college basketball at 11 a.m. on ESPN. There will also be a live one-hour pre-game show on ESPN starting at 8 p.m.

Rece Davis hosts with Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams all on set. Dan Shulman, Bilas and sideline reporter Shannon Spake will call the game. There will also be an announcer-free version of Saturday night’s contest on ESPN3.com.

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Gameday: Florida Gators at Vanderbilt – Shooting woes, inconsistency hindering progress

Location: Memorial Gym – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 14,316]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Kara Lawson)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

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

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 12-9 (5-3 SEC) Record: 11-10 (1-7 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -2

SHOOTING WOES HAMSTRING PROGRESS

No matter how much the Gators improve defensively, ultimately the game of basketball requires, well, the ball being put in the basket. And to that end, Florida has been quite terrible this season.

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Fastbreak: Florida outlasts Arkansas 57-56

The team did not save its season this week, but a second-straight hard-fought victory should give the Florida Gators (12-9, 5-3 SEC) hope for the duration of the campaign. Florida beat one of the Southeastern Conference‘s best teams this season in the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-5, 5-3 SEC), staving off a late comeback to earn a 57-56 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

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

It was over when: With the ball and a two-point lead with less than a minute to play, Florida went to redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who clanged an open three off the front rim. Arkansas took possession and called timeout with 30 seconds to play and the ability to take the game’s final shot. The Hogs chose to drive to the hoop, drawing a foul and making 1-of-2 attempts at the line; however, Anon Beard grabbed the rebound and immediately made a layup to put Arkansas on top 56-55 with 10 seconds left to play. Florida freshman point guard Chris Chiozza was unable to make a driving layup on the other end, but junior guard Michael Frazier II grabbed his rebound and immediately got fouled, hitting a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to put UF ahead for good. Sophomore PG Kasey Hill then stole the inbounds pass, clinching the victory (see the game-ending play at the bottom of this post).

“I felt like in the game there were a couple moments where we were teetering a little bit, and this game, I really felt like they battled as hard as they could,” head coach Billy Donovan said. Michael Frazier, when he has not made shots, has allowed that to consume him. It’s been two games now where he [has stepped up defensively despite not shooting well]. … That’s been this team’s struggle is that competitive fight. It’s a balance between them being worried about performance and them being worried about competing. When you’re competing, you’re never worried about your performance. … Today, I thought we competed better.”

Significant stretches: Florida and Arkansas fought tooth-and-nail through the first 13-plus minutes of the second half until the Gators began to pull away, using a 7-1 run capped by a three from Finney-Smith to take a game-high nine-point lead at 53-44 with over six minutes left to play. The Hogs, however, were quick to answer with a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to two on the back of Bobby Portis, who scored 10-straight points for the visitors.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – Counting on Dorian Finney-Smith

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

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

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

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mike Anderson
Record: 11-9 (4-3 SEC) Record: 16-4 (5-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -7

JIM MCELWAIN TAKES CENTER COURT

STAR MUST RISE AGAIN

Game-winning dunk aside, redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith has been stuck in one of the worst scoring slumps of his career. Finney-Smith went without a field goal for 61:43 of game clock, going without a basket in the second half against Ole Miss all the way through 39 of the 40 minutes against Alabama.

Once Florida’s leading scorer, Finney-Smith has slid into second behind junior guard Michael Frazier II (who struggled scoring in his own right on Tuesday) in that category, but as a 47.3 percent shooter who hits 40.5 percent of his triples (second-best on the team, ahead of Frazier), the Gators need Finney-Smith’s scoring to help move the needle.

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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.

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