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. 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. 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. 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. 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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The Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky sneaks by Florida 68-61 in Gainesville

It was a monumental task for the struggling Florida Gators to potentially upset the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday night. And as it turns out, it was indeed too much to ask Florida (12-11, 5-5 SEC), which fell to 2-5 in its last seven games as Kentucky (23-0, 11-0 SEC) remained undefeated with a 68-61 victory.

The Gators are now 2-11 all-time against top-ranked teams with all 11 losses coming to the Wildcats. Florida has never defeated a team ranked No. 1 in the nation during a regular-season contest. breaks down Saturday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:

It was over when: Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith drained a big trey and redshirt junior guard Eli Carter completed a driving finger roll, each play cutting Kentucky’s lead to two late in the contest. Redshirt senior center Jon Horford then had an opportunity to tie the game at the charity stripe with 1:41 remaining, but the 89.7 percent free throw shooter missed both attempts. In a similar situation nearly a minute later, Horford was called for a travel under the basket as opposed to him drawing a deserved foul while dribbling (which would have given him a chance to redeem himself). The Wildcats held on for the road victory over the Gators, hitting 21-of-22 free throws.

Significant stretch: Kentucky opened the second half 6-for-8 from the field, but a 6-0 Florida run gave the hosts back a two-point advantage with 12:33 to play. The Wildcats responded with a 5-0 spurt to re-take the lead with 11:41 left, holding it for the duration of the contest. UF actually led longer in the game, 19:36-16:19.

Important injury: Junior G Michael Frazier II, who appeared to be on fire early in the contest, twisted his ankle late in the first half. He tried to test it in the final 20 minutes but sat for the vast majority of the period, leaving the Gators without their leading scorer. Frazier was 3-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc with 10 points at the time of his departure. Later, Frazier was officially diagnosed with an ankle sprain.

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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: | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

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

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

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


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

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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. 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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