Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.

Continue Reading » Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

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The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

Some may say they can’t or won’t, but you can be sure Florida’s players and coaches will tune in to the national championship game on Monday.

And when they turn on the television or stream the game from another device, the Gators will be sitting in Gainesville, FL watching a team they beat three times, an eight-seed that entered the tournament unranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, compete against a seven-seed that bookended UF’s school-record 30-game winning streak with a pair of losses and was one of just two opponents to hand them a defeat this season.

Florida was supposed to earn itself a storybook ending to a near-perfect season by getting revenge on UConn and moving on to either do the same against Wisconsin or defeat Kentucky for the fourth time in one season.

Not anymore.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

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Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

Location: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX [Capacity: 77,122]
Time: 6:09 p.m. EDT

National TV: TBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr, Tracy Wolfson)
Florida-centric TV: TNT (David Steele, Mark Wise, James Bates) [Read More]

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Final Four Tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (7) CONNECTICUT HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 36-2 Record: 30-8
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U: 127

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 10-0 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 Huskies earned the right to play in the Final Four by defeating (4) Michigan State 60-54 in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
» Florida has played 58 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 42-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 46 of those 58 games under Donovan, going 35-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 3-1 in Final Four games all-time, 3-0 under Donovan with national title game appearances in 2000, 2006-07. The Gators, which are making their first appearance in the Final Four since 2007, have not played for the national championship since.
» Florida is 1-1 all-time against UConn, 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament (1994) and 0-1 under Donovan. The Gators fell to the Huskies 65-64 earlier this season, dropping a road contest in Stoors, CT on Dec. 2, 2013.
» UF has not lost since that defeat and enters Saturday’s Final Four on a program-record 30-game winning streak with victories in 35 of its last 36 games.
» Florida is the fourth team since 1979 to enter the Final Four with a win streak of 30+ games. None of the previous three teams went on to win the national title (via ESPN).
» UConn could become just the eighth team to beat the No. 1 overall seed in the Final Four. Five of the previous seven teams to accomplish that feat went on to win the national championship (via ESPN).
» UF is the third team in NCAA Tournament history to enter the Final Four with four tournament wins by double figures while simultaneously holding its opponents under 70 points per game.
» The Gators are 86-9 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.
» The Gators are 9-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» Florida is 25-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» The Gators won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and set a school record for most wins in a single season by defeating Dayton in the Elite Eight and advancing to the Final Four (36).

Continue Reading » Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida Gators advance to Final Four with 62-52 win over (11) Dayton in Elite Eight

The (1) Florida Gators (36-2) advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 with a 62-52 victory Saturday evening over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) in the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

After three-straight losses in this round over the last three seasons, Florida advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and extended their winning streak to a school-record 30 games with victories in 35 of its last 36 contests. The Gators’ 36 wins also set a school record for most in a single season.

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

It was over when: The buzzer sounded. A tremendous effort from Dayton took Florida to the limit despite the fact that the Gators never led by fewer than eight points in the second half. The Flyers kept the game close by hitting 8-of-18 three pointers and taking the ball to the hoop in the second half when UF shut down UD from beyond the arc.

Prominent players: Seniors point guard Scottie Wilbekin and center Patric Young each had phenomenal games for the Gators. Wilbekin finished just 6-for-14 but hit 3-of-5 threes and 8-of-10 free throws on his way to a game-high and career-high-tying 23 points. Young was equally as dominant, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, hitting 2-of-3 attempts from the charity stripe and grabbing six boards, four blocks and two steals.

Significant stretch: A couple minutes after seeing its lead cut to eight points following back-to-back three-pointers for Dayton in the first 51 seconds of the second half, Florida went off on a 13-4 scoring stretch to increase its advantage to a game-high 17 points with 11:27 left to play. UF never lost a double-digit lead over the duration of the contest.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida Gators advance to Final Four with 62-52 win over (11) Dayton in Elite Eight

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Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) pulled away late in the second half to take down the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) with a 79-68 victory in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

SCOTTIE TOO HOTTIE

It would be unfair and inaccurate to say senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the main reason the Gators won but there is no question that his late-game heroics shut the door on the Bruins and were a catalyst that sent Florida to its fourth Elite Eight in as many seasons.

Starting 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, Wilbekin hit his last three shots (one three), scored six-straight points and somehow finished with 13 points, the second-most posted by a UF player on Thursday.

“I just tried to keep attacking, stay aggressive and take what they gave me,” he said. “My shots weren’t falling in the first half, even in the beginning of the second half. So, I just tried to stay the course and keep playing my game.”

Wilbekin’s three makes were not only clutch, each was impressive. First, despite being way off from downtown most of the night, he drained a pull-up three to push Florida ahead by eight. On the very next possession, he took the ball to the rack and was fouled on the way, converting an old-fashioned three-point play that gave the Gators a game-high 11-point lead.

Continue Reading » Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

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Florida-Pittsburgh post-game: Gators return to form with Wilbekin, Yeguete, defense to thank

The (1) Florida Gators (34-2) pulled away early in the second half to take down the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) with a 61-45 victory in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

BACK TO FORM

Coming off a widely-panned disappointing performance against Albany, Florida had a choice when it faced Pittsburgh on Saturday – continue its less-than-stellar play and try to squeak out another victory or return to form and regain momentum.

The Gators obviously chose the latter path, which Donovan laid out for his team during practice and game preparation on Friday.

“You always want to play to your identity and who you’ve been and who we’ve been the entire year. I didn’t feel like we did that [on Thursday]. We didn’t play to our identity there, and I was disappointed by that because we really hadn’t done that all year long. That’s why I was disappointed,” he explained.

“I saw things inside of our team that I just did not like. There was nothing bad like in terms of bad attitudes or guys having a problem with one another, there was just this frustration, personal expectation, game not going the way they wanted it to go, and that’s not who we’ve been. I just wanted to make sure they understood that and we got back to who we were. …

“I don’t think any of them disagreed with anything I had to say. And I think that they understood where I was coming from and hopefully that in some way helped us get prepared for this game.”

Continue Reading » Florida-Pittsburgh post-game: Gators return to form with Wilbekin, Yeguete, defense to thank

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers

Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 12:15 p.m. EDT

TV: CBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 85/190 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (9) PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Jamie Dixon
Record: 33-2 Record: 26-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5 | O/U: 124

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 7-0 record with that seed and 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 Panthers earned the right to play in the Round of 32 by defeating (8) Colorado 77-48 in the Round of 64 on Thursday.
» Florida has played 55 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 39-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 43 of those 55 games under Donovan, going 32-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 9-4 in Round of 32 games and has now been knocked out in its second NCAA Tournament game since 2005. Florida has advanced to play two games in the tournament in 14 of its 19 appearances. 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 2-4 all-time against Pittsburgh, but the Gators and Panthers have never squared off since Donovan took over the former team.
» UF enters Saturday’s third-round game on a program-record 27-game winning streak with victories in 32 of its last 33 games.
» The Gators are 84-9 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 6-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 23-5 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 three more games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers

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Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

The (1) Florida Gators (33-2) pulled away in the second half to escape the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) with a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the tough win.

WHAT WAS THAT?

For a team that has put together its share of blowouts this season, Florida being tied at 39 with Albany in the second half and only defeating a 15-loss team out of the America East by 12 points was understandably deflating. So one cannot blame the Gators for feeling a bit down in the locker room after the game, nor Donovan for being frustrated with UF’s overall performance.

“I’m a little bit baffled with our team right now,” he told the TBS sideline reporter before leaving the court for his post-game press conference.

“I was a little bit disappointed with our defense in the first half. I didn’t think we defended like we normally did,” he said in the media availability. “I thought in the second half we did a much, much better job in that area.”

The Great Danes hit 10 of their first 15 shots but only connected on nine of their last 31 attempts from the field. Nevertheless, the Gators only outscored the underdogs by six points in each half.

Many will chalk up Florida’s struggles to not being “up for the game,” thinking it could handle a 16-seed while playing a second-round game just over 100 miles from its home court. Donovan hopes that is not the case.

Continue Reading » Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

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