The Silver Lining for February 16: Failings of Florida Gators basketball not an easy fix

After a two-week break, The Silver Lining is back to its weekly publishing schedule. This edition is dedicated to taking a closer look at the Florida Gators men’s basketball team, which at 12-13 overall and 5-7 in SEC play is floundering with its leading scorer – junior guard Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain) – out for an undetermined amount of time.

It’s simple, really…

To anyone who has watched the Gators this season – whether a fan, journalist, analyst, player or coach – it is quite apparent that Florida is, shall we say, a flawed basketball team. Some may chalk many of the Gators’ ills up to bad luck; UF, after all, is KenPom.com’s least-lucky team in the nation by a wide margin at -.162. But its head coach, Billy Donovan, knows that’s ultimately an easy excuse and one that tries to hide a much bigger problem.

Yes, Florida has certainly had its fair share of bad luck – late-game officiating, last-second baskets made by opponents, Jacob Kurtz’s accidental own goal tip-in at the buzzer against Florida State – but its 2-6 record in games decided by two points or fewer (and 12-13 record overall) are true representations of its play to this point.

As Donovan said after Saturday’s loss, “Life, to me, is always about getting to the truth.” So let’s do just that.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining for February 16: Failings of Florida Gators basketball not an easy fix

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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.”

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

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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.”

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

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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.

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

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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.”


Continue Reading » Fastbreak: Dorian Finney-Smith helps Florida scrape past Alabama 52-50

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Fastbreak: Ole Miss edges Florida 72-71 in Oxford

A season on the brink may have very well reached it on Saturday evening as the Florida Gators (10-9, 3-3 SEC) gave up multiple leads and ultimately fell 72-71 to the Ole Miss Rebels (12-7, 3-3 SEC) at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Mississippi.

Florida has now lost three-straight games for the first time since the end of the 2011-12 regular season, and the Gators are on pass to miss both the NCAA Tournament and NIT.

“I thought this as a microcosm of how little room for error there is,” Donovan said. “That really just goes to show you how hard it will be for us unless we can really, really, really become a very, very disciplined, connected team, because we just break down.”

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

It was over when: A 6-0 stretch for the Gators put them ahead of the Rebels 69-65 with 2:52 to play. However, Ole Miss ended its 4:08 field goal drought with a mid-range jumper at 1:54 on the clock and scored five-straight to retake the lead at 70-69 with 31 seconds left. Florida junior guard Michael Frazier II stepped up to make two free throws that pushed UF ahead 71-70 with 9.8 seconds remaining, but the Gators fouled on the other end and Jarvis Summers made two of his own to give the Rebels back a 72-21 lead with 3.5 seconds left. The final play of the game belonged to UF sophomore point guard Kasey Hill, who caught the ball in the backcourt and attempted to not only drive the length of the floor but finish with a reverse layup; he failed with the buzzer going off before the ball even left his hands.

“Kasey has got to recognize, three-and-a-half seconds, you got to get a shot up,” Donovan said. “You just got to stop and shoot the ball. He could have taken it to the free throw line and got that shot up. His speed got him to that point, which was good, but he obviously probably took it a bit too far.”

Significant stretches: Ole Miss took its first substantial lead of the game at 53-46 on the back of an explosive 13-0 run; the streak included three-straight triples for the Rebels and five consecutive missed shots by the Gators, all occurring in a span of less than three minutes. UF responded with an extended 11-4 stretch to tie the contest at 57 with 7:30 to play, and the team’s traded leads for the duration of the game.

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers; second-year F Chris Walker still not ready for prime time

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Braed Nessler, Sean Franham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 84 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS LSU TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Johnny Jones
Record: 10-7 (3-1 SEC) Record: 13-4 (2-2 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -10

STILL NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME

Forward Chris Walker, despite joining the Gators during the mid-way point of his first season and being suspended for the first two games of the 2014-15 campaign, has played in 33 games at Florida. He may have been listed as a sophomore before this season began, but his first full year of actually being a college basketball has just passed.

And the results, at least to this point, indicate that Walker is far from the phenom many expected the day he committed to the Gators. In fact, he more closely resembles former UF center Patric Young, a freakish athlete who has a long way to go to be a capable college starter, let alone an NBA player.

“I just know I need to improve,” Walker said Monday. “I just need to come in every day and be focused and just work hard.”

Averaging just 16.3 minutes per game this season, Walker is doing little right. He only hits 48.6 percent of his field goals – despite being positioned around the basket – and is a team-worst 37.0 percent from the free throw line (he’s only drawn 27 fouls and made 10 gimmies in 245 minutes of court action). Walker is rebounding at a high rate with an average of 4.2 per game, and his ability to block shots has helped the Gators’ defense, though his inability to be reliable on pick-and-rolls and other sets has been a hindrance.

Continue Reading » Gameday: Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers; second-year F Chris Walker still not ready for prime time

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