Michael White embraces challenge as new Florida Gators head basketball coach

Measured and calm, Michael White was introduced Monday as the 20th head basketball coach in the history of the Florida Gators.

While White did not come right out of the gate with a ton of energy or promises, he was deliberate in his statements and accepting of the tall task ahead – replacing legendary coach Billy Donovan. He opened with a lengthy, prepared statement before taking questions from the gathered media, all of which has been captured and broken down here on OnlyGators.com.

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Eli Carter to transfer from Florida Gators

Eli Carter, a guard transfer from Rutgers who was made eligible immediately and played one full season with the Florida Gators, will transfer for the second time in his college career, a source close to the program confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Monday.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had here at Florida,” Carter said in a statement released by the school. “I’ll always appreciate the coaches, teammates and fans that made my time here memorable.”

CBSSports.com‘s Jon Rothstein first reported Carter’s move, noting that the player will be immediately eligible in 2015-16 as he will earn his undergraduate degree. The Gators confirmed it later in the day.

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Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away late to rout Florida 67-50 in Lexington

Florida Gators basketball (15-16, 8-10 SEC) gave the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (31-0, 18-0 SEC) a run for their money on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. But after hanging in for three-quarters of the game, the Gators were eventually run over by the Wildcats 67-50.

UK became the second team in Southeastern Conference history to go 18-0 in league play during the regular season, matching a mark UF set just one year ago. Head coach Billy Donovan‘s team, meanwhile, finished the regular season with a sub-.500 record for the first time since 1996-97.

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

It was over when: Gators freshman point guard Chris Chiozza telegraphed a pass with less than six minutes to play. Aaron Harrison reached out for the steal, broke ahead for the fastbreak and finished with a layup to put the Wildcats on top 57-45 with 5:41 to play. UK ended the contest by outscoring UF 23-9.

Significant stretch: Florida saw its deficit cut to one with 15:58 remaining and again down to three with 10:30 to go, but a trey by Devin Booker started a 7-0 Kentucky spurt that allowed the Wildcats to push their advantage to 10 points with eight minutes left. UK increased its lead to a game-high 12 points and held on for what turned out to be a dominant win in a contest that was close for 30 minutes.

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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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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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Fastbreak: Texas A&M breaks Florida’s heart in final seconds on Valentine’s Day

The Florida Gators lost a game by a single point for the second time in three days as the Texas A&M Aggies, which led for nearly the entire contest, fought off a late surge to pick up a 63-62 win on Saturday night at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.

Florida (12-13, 5-7 SEC) fell below .500 through 25 games for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s intial season with the team in 1996-97 with its defeat at the hands of Texas A&M (17-7, 8-4 SEC), giving the Gators four-straight losses – their first such streak since 2007-08.

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

It was over when: Florida trailed for 37:33 before taking its first lead, using a 6-0 run including a step-back jumper by redshirt junior guard Eli Carter and fastbreak layup tip-in from sophomore center Chris Walker to jump ahead 62-61 with 1:45 to play. A careless turnover by sophomore point guard Kasey Hill – following a big defensive stop – put Texas A&M back on top by one. The Gators touched the ball last, calling a timeout with 5.3 seconds remaining but nevertheless failing to get off a shot, passing the ball twice with redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy attempting a three after the buzzer.

“A&M really had control of the game from start to finish. They were probably a little bit surprised – as most everybody else was – when we went up by one,” said Donovan. “We got a good stop and then we turned the ball over, which we fouled [on the play]. … I thought we had a chance [at the end]. Dorian probably should’ve made a play on that, but he’s very unselfish and it was an unselfish play by him … but there wasn’t enough time to do that. He probably needed to be more selfish in that situation.”

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The Fastbreak: Ole Miss snatches victory from Florida 62-61 in Gainesville

The Ole Miss Rebels did it again, ousting the Florida Gators by a single point in a come-from-behind 62-61 victory on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The Gators (12-12, 5-6 SEC) fell to .500 on the year as the Rebels (17-7, 8-3 SEC) improved their national standing. Ole Miss has now defeated Florida twice this season by a single point, previously winning 72-71 in Oxford, Mississippi on Jan. 24.

It is the first time since 1989-90 that the Rebels have swept the Gators in a single season and the first time Florida has registered a pair of three-game losing streaks in a single campaign since 2009-10. The Gators are also .500 or worse in the spring portion of a basketball season for the first time since 1997-98.

“This team will have a very, very, very, very hard time just to have a winning record this year, a very hard time,” said head coach Billy Donovan after the game.

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

It was over when: Florida led by two with 18.4 seconds remaining, but Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody stepped up for the visitors, draining a contested three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to put the Rebels ahead of the Gators for good. UF was unable to get a legitimate shot off on its final two possessions prior to Moody’s three and also failed to do anything on its final touch of the game. Moody had a game-high 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.

“He actually shot the ball from the nose of the alligator, seriously, his heels were on the nose of the alligator,” Donovan began when describing the game’s deciding play. “It was a great defensive stance by us. They had a play on, we took it away, we matched up really well, the floor was disheveled, there was maybe 3-4 seconds to go, they threw it to him, he took one step and just bombed in a shot. That was really the difference in the game, so give him credit for knocking down a big shot when his team needed it.”

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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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