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.


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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SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

1 » Despite ending their 2013 NCAA Tournament run in the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, Florida Gators basketball was placed at No. 9 in the final USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll of the 2012-13 season. Florida was not the only Elite Eight team to fall outside the top eight of the poll, however, as Marquette checked in at No. 11 in the final rankings. Indiana (Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse) and Kansas (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan) took the two other spots in the top eight. The Gators also checked in at No. 9 and No. 10 in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively, after losing in the Elite Eight. Florida will likely enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the preseason top-10.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-2, 10-1 SEC) ran through its competition over the weekend, extending their winning streaks to 10 consecutive team matches and 30-straight individual matches. Florida swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-10, 4-6 SEC) and Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-12, 1-10 SEC) in a pair of home showdowns over the weekend at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won all 11 matches and had the opportunity to celebrate Senior Day against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Seniors No. 1 Lauren Embree and No. 125 Caroline Hitimana were each unable to finish their singles matches due to Florida registering a quick 4-0 victory but both won their doubles contests. The No. 20 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen picked up an 8-2 win, while Hitimana and junior Alex Cercone won 8-0.

On Monday, head coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree at his press conference, making note of her incredible career and tremendous work ethic. “You want to know why Lauren Embree is the best college player to ever play the game?” he asked rhetorically. “It was Monday morning at 8:30, and after a weekend full of matches and practices, she runs to the courts, hits serves for 30 minutes, then I show up and we go at it [on the court] for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00, she’s done with two workouts already while the rest of tennis America is still sleeping. That’s why we’re good and that’s why she’s good. She sets the tone, the bar is high, and I think everybody feeds off of it. We’ve just been blessed to have that for four years. Frankly, it’s just amazing.” The Gators women’s tennis program is hoping to win its third-straight national title.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

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3/31: Florida vs. Michigan post-game report

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-8) collapsed in their most important game of the season on Sunday as they got routed 79-59 by the four-seed Michigan Wolverines (30-7) in the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired in their failed Final Four bid.


“They capitalized on our turnovers. I thought we dug ourselves a hole very early in the game. … I think in the first half we missed 11 shots within three feet of the basket. They got off to a hot start and us not being able to manufacture enough points I thought really, really dug us a hole. I thought we got the ball where we wanted to go. … But I thought our guys – to start the second half came out – we battled, we fought, but we hurt ourselves with the way we played. … I just didn’t think that we did enough things there on both ends of the floor. I thought our defense in the second half was a little bit more characteristic of the way we’ve played this year. I thought our offense in a lot of ways, because we had some very, very, I thought, good quality looks deflated us around the basket. Especially against a team that’s not a great shot blocking team.”


Florida became the first team in NCAA Tournament history (since the field expanded to 64 teams) to lose three-straight times in the Elite Eight. Yet while the Gators did drop the game, they did not even have the opportunity to choke it away like the previous two years because UF never led at any point in the game. In fact, once Michigan opened the contest on a 13-0 run, Florida never trailed by fewer than 11 points over the duration of the contest. It is for that reason why Donovan was not emotional after the game.

“This is a totally different feel than the last two. The last two to me we gave ourselves every opportunity to win,” he explained.

“The Butler game was an overtime game, the Louisville game was a two point game. This one we didn’t play well enough or deserve to win the game. Michigan deserved this game. They played better than us. They performed better. They did things that were necessary to beat us. The other two games I was heartbroken for our team because we were really, really close. We weren’t that close here [Sunday].”

Asked how, as a coach, it felt to lose in three-straight Elite Eights and not advance to the Final Four, Donovan brushed off those concerns. “Well, it’s not really about me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be there as a player and several times as a coach,” he said. “I feel more upset for [Kenny] Boynton, [Mike] Rosario and [Erik] Murphy, [guys] who don’t get a chance and have come so close. I’ve experienced the Final Four enough. I want our program to continue to experience it and our players.”

To their credit, the players also took the loss relatively well all things considering. Boynton kept his chin up about the situation, expressing his regrets but also his appreciation for what his teammates and coach have done for him.

Continue Reading » 3/31: Florida vs. Michigan post-game report

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(4) Wolverines overwhelm (3) Gators 79-59 as Florida drops third-straight Elite Eight

The third time was certainly not a charm for the three-seed Florida Gators, which trailed from wire-to-wire and watched the more athletic and determined four-seed Michigan Wolverines dominate their Elite Eight showdown on Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Florida (29-8), which became the first team in NCAA Tournament history to lose in the Elite Eight in three-straight seasons since the field expanded to 64 teams, was taken down 79-59 by Michigan (30-7), which moved on to its first Final Four since 1994.

The Gators put together one of their worst offensive performances of the season, entering Sunday’s game with a game plan that simply did not work against a longer and stronger Wolverines team. UF also played lackluster defense most of the contest, allowing its opponent to do basically whatever it wanted in both halves.

In fact, two of Florida’s starters – senior forward Erik Murphy and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin – combined to go 1-for-17 from the field and 0-for-2 from downtown with seven combined turnovers. The Gators simply never had a chance to blow its third-straight second-half lead in the round because they never had a lead to begin with.

Continue Reading » (4) Wolverines overwhelm (3) Gators 79-59 as Florida drops third-straight Elite Eight

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3/30: Florida and Michigan prepare for Elite Eight

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will face the (4) Michigan Wolverines (29-7) on Sunday at 2:20 p.m. live on CBS from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. On Saturday, both coaches and their players met with the media to discuss the upcoming showdown.


Florida’s accomplish of reaching three-straight Elite Eights certainly should not be overlooked, but the Gators also face the possibility of being the first team in NCAA history (since the tournament expanded to at least 64 teams) of falling in the round three years in a row. Asked Saturday if the experience of those losses will benefit Florida this time around, Donovan somewhat dismissed the notion.

“The opportunity, I think these guys are all excited about it and I’m excited for them to be back in this position again. It’s a different opponent than we’ve had the last two years. It’s a great opportunity. I’m not so sure what we take from those situations that could really help us get prepared for Michigan,” he said.

“This game stands on itself. It’s got its own separate identity as itself. It’s in the moment. It’s now. It’s here. It’s present. I think these guys have been in this situation. They’ve worked very, very hard to get here, but they also know when you get into this situation it’s a great, great challenge. And you cannot play 20 or 25 or 30 minutes, you’re going to have to play a whole complete game. I believe when you get to this point in the time in the season there’s eight teams left, these eight teams are playing very, very good basketball. And in these moments you’ve also got to play very well.”

Junior center Patric Young, a freshman during the Gators’ first Elite Eight loss in 2011, echoed his coach’s sentiments but said the heartbreak will only further motivate Florida.

Continue Reading » 3/30: Florida and Michigan prepare for Elite Eight

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3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight for the third-straight year and seventh time in team history with a 62-50 take down of the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) in 2013 NCAA Tournament action at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired on Friday in the Sweet 16.


The four-seed Michigan Wolverines (29-7) stunned one-seed Kansas in the first game from Arlington on Friday and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994. The Wolverines came from behind to force overtime and eventually took down their foes 87-85 behind 23 points from Trey Burke (all of which came in the second half and overtime). Florida holds a 1-1 record all-time against Michigan, pulling off a 79-63 win in a neutral site game on Dec. 27, 1998. (The teams met previously on March 19, 1988 – a game UF lost 108-85 at a neutral site – but the victory was vacated by the NCAA.)

Sunday’s showdown will commence at 2:20 p.m. (EDT) and air live on CBS. Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr (color commentator) and Craig Sager (sideline reporter) will be on the call for the contest.


Florida opened Friday’s game as cold as a team could be shooting-wise, hitting just four of its first 20 shots while watching FGCU explode out to an early 15-4 lead mostly due to a pair of wide-open three pointers. The Gators not only missed open jumpers but also saw layups roll around the rim without going into the net, an incredibly frustrating situation considering UF was executing its game plan in the early going.

“I felt like we really got a lot of good looks. Obviously the focus was to go down inside to [Erik] Murphy and Patric Young. Those guys had really good looks inside. I thought from the perimeter, I think Mike [Rosario] started off 0-for-5. He had pretty good looks. We couldn’t get anything to fall for us,” Donovan said.

There was no panic from Florida, however. Donovan called a timeout, the Gators composed themselves and got right back in the game in a nick of time.

“I don’t think we panicked at all as a team. We’ve been there before. The main thing with us was starting to get defensive stops. We put together a couple defensive stops. Offense, it wasn’t our best day, but it came along,” senior guard Kenny Boynton said.

Added junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin: “We had a game to win. We had everybody encouraging each other, keeping each other’s head in the right place. When you have that, you’re not going to get that frustrated.”

“We were too determined to win this game so we just fought through, stayed together and picked it up as a whole,” Young concurred. “We had to fight through human nature in the sense of feeling sorry for ourselves that we were down. We really had to fight through. It’s easy to lay down and give up, but we were able to fight as a whole through adversity and stay together.”

Read the rest of the Florida-FGCU post-game (including videos)…
Continue Reading » 3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

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FG-CU Later: Florida Gators roll into third-straight Elite Eight with 62-50 victory over Eagles

Despite struggling in the early going and trailing by 11 points late in the first half, the three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) triumphed in a game that was lasted until early Saturday morning and advanced to the Elite Eight for a school-record third-straight season with a 62-50 victory over the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Florida has now been victorious in its last six appearances in the Sweet 16 and faces a short turnaround as it is set to take on the four-seed Michigan Wolverines in the finals of the South Region of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

The Gators used a 16-2 half-ending run to turn an 11-point deficit into a four-point halftime lead and never trailed again. Redshirt senior guard Mike Rosario led the way with a game-high 15 points, team-high five rebounds and three steals and was supported by stellar play from some of UF’s reserves.

FGCU opened up the contest red hot, jumping ahead 15-4 after an 11-0 run as Florida started 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from downtown.

The Gators’ cold shooting and tight play continued deep into the first half as the Eagles maintained their double-digit lead. Through the first 12:47 of the game, Florida trailed 19-9 while going 4-for-20 from the floor, 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and just 1-for-4 from the free throw line.

Suddenly, the Gators found their shooting stroke and hit three-straight triples including two from freshman guard Michael Frazier II as part of a 16-2 half-ending run that gave them a 30-26 lead at the break. Energy and suffocating defense from junior forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete helped UF hold FGCU scoreless for nearly five full minutes and played a big part in its resurgence.

Continue Reading » FG-CU Later: Florida Gators roll into third-straight Elite Eight with 62-50 victory over Eagles

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining – “Failure” is not a dirty word]


For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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