Final Four Fastbreak: (7) UConn Huskies end (1) Florida Gators magical season with thud

The historic season put together by the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) ended with a thud on Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) responded from early adversity to dominate the No. 1 overall seed for the majority of the contest and eliminate Florida in the Final Four round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a stunning 63-53 victory.

The Gators saw their 30-game winning streak, the 10th longest in college basketball history, snapped as they ended their season short of a national title for the seventh-straight season. It was head coach Billy Donovan‘s first ever loss in the semifinal round.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: A personal 6-2 run by senior center Patric Young got Florida within six points with four minutes to play, but two free throws made by Shabazz Napier put UConn back up eight and kick-started an 8-2 run that gave it a 12-point lead with 1:46 to play. It was never close again.

Prominent players: Young came up big for the Gators, especially in the second half, and finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. For the Huskies, DeAndre Daniels was outstanding, hitting 9-of-14 attempts for a game-high 20 points with a game-high 10 boards as well. Young added five rebounds and a block to his line.

Disappearing act: Known as Florida’s closer most of the season, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a non-factor – and at times a detriment – for the Gators on Saturday. He went 2-for-9 from the field, missed three attempts from beyond the arc, only dished one assist, gave up three turnovers and committed four fouls. It was his worst performance of the season and just the second time this year he scored fewer than seven points in a game.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Final Four Fastbreak: (7) UConn Huskies end (1) Florida Gators magical season with thud

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Final Four: (1) Florida Gators get chance for revenge in rematch against (7) UConn Huskies

The only two teams to defeat the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) this season will join them in the Final Four as the (2) Wisconsin Badgers (30-7) advanced Saturday night and the (7) Connecticut Huskies (30-8) earned a seat at the table Sunday afternoon.

Florida will get a chance to avenge at least one of its two losses on Saturday at At&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as it is set to take on UConn at 6:09 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to championship game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Forty minutes after the game, Wisconsin and the (8) Kentucky Wildcats (28-10) – which UF has beat three times already this season – will square off for the other spot in the title game.

The Huskies and Gators fought down to the wire in their regular-season match-up on Dec. 2, 2013 with UConn taking down Florida 65-64 at home in Stoors, CT by outscoring UF 6-2 over the final 34 seconds with point guard Shabazz Napier draining a second-chance game-winner at the buzzer.

The shot may never have happened had UF senior PG Scottie Wilbekin, who injured his ankle with 3:01 to play and never returned, been on the court for the last possession. The team was also without its back-up floor general, freshman Kasey Hill, who missed the game with an ankle injury of his own.

Continue Reading » Final Four: (1) Florida Gators get chance for revenge in rematch against (7) UConn Huskies

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Florida-Dayton post-game – Final-ly Four: Gators exorcise Elite Eight demon on way to North Texas

Advancing to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007, the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) pulled off a 62-52 victory over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) in the Elite Eight round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some of his players met with the media to discuss the historic win.

POST-GAME CELEBRATION, NET CUTTING

DEMON, EXORCISED

Donovan and his players could not say it enough on Friday: Florida’s three-straight Elite Eight losses had nothing at all to do with Saturday’s game. Yet while the Gators’ roster is different, their chemistry is improved and they are currently in the midst of the most impressive single season in school history, it would have been a blemish had UF not overcome this obstacle.

Elite Eight demon, you have been exorcised.

“I’m not so sure that these four seniors, having gone through the experience in the previous Elite Eights, could have made the next step that they made,” Donovan said. “There were things we went through the last three years that enabled those guys to learn a lot to take the next step that they did this year.”

He continued: “They’re better players today by going through what they went through. If it would have been easier on them, I don’t think they’d be quite as good. I think the struggle they’ve had to go through has forced them to have perseverance, resiliency, mental and physical toughness to be able to battle and fight. More than anything else, as a coach, the thing you love about that is hopefully they can take those qualities to the next step in their life, because when they start a new career in their life, they’re going to go through some of that themselves.”

Continue Reading » Florida-Dayton post-game – Final-ly Four: Gators exorcise Elite Eight demon on way to North Texas

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida blows past (4) UCLA 79-68 in Sweet 16, advances to fourth-straight Elite Eight

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth-straight season with a 79-68 victory Thursday over the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

Florida improved to 7-1 in Sweet 16 games under head coach Billy Donovan with seven-straight victories that advanced the program to the Elite Eight (2000, 2006-07, 2011-14). The Gators also extended their winning streak to a school-record 29 games and have now claimed victories in 34 of its last 35 contests.

UF is now 4-0 all-time against UCLA (all in NCAA Tournament play).

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

It was over when: Freshman point guard Kasey Hill hustled hard for an offensive rebound with 1:35 to play and got fouled as soon as he grabbed it. Hill converted the ensuing free throws to push Florida ahead by nine. Less than 20 seconds later, after the Gators gave up a jumper, senior forward Casey Prather got fed on the fastbreak and slammed home an exclamation point dunk to put the icing on the cake. Hill had a career-high 10 assists to go along with six points and six boards, while Prather chipped in 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the free throw line with three rebounds and two blocks.

Prominent players: Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II carried the scoring burden most of the evening, posting a team-high 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown with six boards, three assists and a steal. His five triples also set a new school record for most in a single-season as he has now accumulated 115 in the 2013-14 campaign.

However, it was senior PG Scottie Wilbekin who took over late in the second half. Wilbekin scored eight points in less than four minutes, shaking off his 2-for-10 start from the field. Wilbekin wound up with 13 points (second-most on the team) and three dimes despite going 2-for-8 from three. He did not turn the ball over despite playing 35 minutes.

Significant stretch: Leading by one midway through the second half with Prather and senior center Patric Young both on the bench with four fouls, Florida responded to a 7-0 UCLA run with a 10-0 stretch to take a 66-55 lead with 5:34 remaining. Wilbekin, who started 1-for-7 from three, drained a timely triple and converted a And1 attempt on a heavily contested layup for six-straight points to push UF up a game-high 11 points.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida blows past (4) UCLA 79-68 in Sweet 16, advances to fourth-straight Elite Eight

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Memphis, TN: (1) Florida Gators vs. (4) UCLA Bruins

Location: FedEx Forum – Memphis, TN [Capacity: 18,119]
Time: 9:45 p.m. EDT (or 30 minutes after the conclusion of Stanford-Dayton)

TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols)
SiriusXM: 92/190 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Sweet 16 Tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (4) UCLA BRUINS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Steve Alford
Record: 34-2 Record: 28-8
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Pac-12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5 | O/U: 137

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 8-0 record overall with that seed winning the national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Bruins earned the right to play in the Sweet 16 by defeating (12) Stephen F. Austin 77-60 in the Round of 32 on Sunday.
» Florida has played 56 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 40-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 44 of those 56 games under Donovan, going 33-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 7-2 in Sweet 16 games all-time, 6-1 under Donovan with six-straight victories that advanced the program to the Elite Eight (2000, 2006, 2007, 2011-13). Florida has not failed to advance to the Elite Eight while playing in a Sweet 16 game since 1999. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 3-0 all-time against UCLA with all three games played since 2006 in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators defeated the Bruins for the 2006 national title, in the 2007 Final Four and in the Round of 32 in 2011.
» UF enters Thursday’s fourth-round game on a program-record 28-game winning streak with victories in 33 of its last 34 games.
» The Gators are 85-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» Florida is 7-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 24-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning two more games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Memphis, TN: (1) Florida Gators vs. (4) UCLA Bruins

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Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

Much has been written about the offseason suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, which lasted five games into the 2013-14 season, and the road laid out for him by head coach Billy Donovan to return to the Florida Gators.

During a Monday afternoon appearance on ESPN Radio‘s SVP & Russillo, Donovan provided additional insight into Wilbekin’s offseason struggles, explaining why he put so many obstacles in Wilbekin’s way while relating a story about how, with one gesture, his floor general went from outcast to full-fledged team member.

First, some background. Suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules – his third infraction overall and second in a seven-month span – Wilbekin was told by Donovan that it would likely be best for him to transfer and start over elsewhere. If he did choose to stay with the Gators, the Gainesville, FL-native’s hometown team, earning his way back in the good graces of his coach and teammates would be a tall task that he may not have the necessary motivation or discipline to scale.

“Scottie Wilbekin’s situation was a unique one not only from the standpoint of a suspension, but I do think there were some guys on our team that were disappointed in him, there were some guys that had to regain trust, so to speak.. And he needed to be put into a situation – because he does have good leadership qualities – to be able to do that,” Donovan began.

“One of the things I felt like in looking at the whole thing is I was very disappointed, our team was very disappointed in some of the choices and decisions Scottie made. When he made the decision that he wanted to stay here and he wanted to battle and fight his way through, I do think there was a lot of guys on our team that were a little bit skeptical of how committed is he to us. How committed is he to this team? He’s making bad choices and in the past he’s not been committed [off the court].”

Continue Reading » Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

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3/24: Defensive-minded (1) Florida begins preparations for offensive juggernaut (4) UCLA

Head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media on Monday, two days after the No. 1 Florida Gators (34-2) advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season and sixth time int he last nine years.

Florida will face the No. 4-seed UCLA Bruins (28-8) on Thursday at approximately 9:45 p.m. in Memphis, TN at the FedEx Forum. The game will air live nationally on CBS, tipping off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the other South Region showdown between No. 10-seed Stanford and No. 11-seed Dayton.

The Gators are 3-0 against the Bruins in NCAA Tournament play with all three games played in the prior eight seasons. UF had to go through UCLA to capture both of its national titles, winning 73-57 to bring home the 2006 championship and 76-66 in the Final Four of the 2007 tournament. Florida is 7-2 all-time in the Sweet 16 with a 6-1 record under Donovan including six-straight wins dating back to 2000.

INJURY UPDATES

Despite being seen after the Pittsburgh game with ice on his knee, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said he “feels fine” and that the injury was simply a bruise that he likely suffered by bumping knees during the game.

Donovan said he has not heard any concerns from Florida’s training staff in regards to Wilbekin’s health. “We were off [Sunday] but no complaints. The trainer didn’t say anything. [Wilbekin] went in, he was diagnosed with a bruise or just kind of banged knees – actually thought at first it was some cramps because he’s had some cramping issues during the course of the year,” he said. “But there’s no issues right now, at least that I’ve been aware of or made aware of as it relates to him practicing and going forward.”

Continue Reading » 3/24: Defensive-minded (1) Florida begins preparations for offensive juggernaut (4) UCLA

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida outclasses (9) Pittsburgh 61-45; Gators advance to fourth-straight Sweet 16

The (1) Florida Gators (34-2) got back to their dominant ways on Saturday afternoon, outclassing the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) in the 2014 NCAA Tournament Round of 32 at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. The Gators advanced to their fourth-straight Sweet 16 with a 61-45 victory over the Panthers.

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

It was over when: Florida was already leading by 10 with 90 seconds left to play when senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin attacked the hoop and finished an up-and-under layup to vault the Gators ahead by 12 points. Wilbekin was responsible for 13 of Florida’s 15 points in a span of 6:51 at one point during the second half with the aforementioned layup the last of eight-straight points he scored for UF.

Prominent player: Wilbekin scored a team-high 21 points for the Gators despite struggling throughout almost the entire first half. He posted 16 points in the final 20:01 of the game and was the main reason that Florida was able to pull away for a decisive victory. He was 9-for-15 from the field and also grabbed three boards, dished two assists and swiped a pair of steals.

Significant stretch: Florida pieced together a 7-0 run early in the second half to jump up 10 points after going toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh for nearly the entire first 20 minutes of the game. The Gators never trailed again and maintained their advantage over the duration of the contest, leading by double-digits most of the time.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida outclasses (9) Pittsburgh 61-45; Gators advance to fourth-straight Sweet 16

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