No. 1 Florida at South Carolina preview: Gators ready for road tussle with confident Gamecocks

Location: Colonial Life Arena – Columbia, SC [Capacity: 18,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPNU (Joe Davis, Dino Gaudio)
SiriusXM: 93/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(1) FLORIDA GATORS SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 27-2 (16-0 SEC) Record: 11-18 (4-12 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -12 | O/U: OFF

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title and clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC Tournament last Thursday after Kentucky lost and gave UF a four-game lead in the league standings with three contests left to play. It is the program’s second-straight title, third in the last four seasons, seventh overall and fifth outright.
» Florida leads South Carolina 41-22 in the all-time series and holds a 25-11 edge in the series with Donovan has coach. The Gators are 19-13 against the Gamecocks on the road (10-6 under Donovan) with victories in five-straight meetings and 12 of the last 15.
» UF defeated USC 74-58 back on Jan. 8. The teams play each other twice this season after not doing so in 2012-13.
» Donovan and Martin go back to the late 1990s when the then-young Florida head coach recruited Udonis Haslem, who played for Martin at Miami Senior High School. Since Martin first became a college head coach in 2007, Donovan is 3-0 all-time when the friends meet on the court.
» UF enters Tuesday’s game on a program-record 21-game winning streak and at 16-0 have set a school mark for most conference wins in a single season. Its 27 wins are also the most the Gators have captured in a single season.
» With a victory, Florida would become the fourth team in SEC history to win 17 league games and just the second all-time to hold a 17-0 SEC mark. If the Gators win their final two SEC games, they could become the first team to finish 18-0 in the league.
» Florida is also on two school-record home winning streaks – 31-straight overall and 16-in-a-row against league opponents.
» The Gators at 27-2 (16-0 SEC) have set a program mark for best overall start to a season. UF has also won 26 of its last 27 games.
» Florida has won eight-straight SEC road games, also a program record.
» The Gators are 78-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 13-2 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 10-2 in true road games this campaign with both losses coming against ranked opponents during the first month of the season. UF lost those contests by a combined seven points.
» This marks the latest in a regular season that Florida has been ranked No. 1 nationally. The Gators have achieved a No. 1 ranking in four separate seasons and is 17-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» South Carolina is 1-9 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents with its only victory coming against Kentucky in 2010.
» The Gators’ senior class is the first in school history to win three SEC championships.

Continue Reading » No. 1 Florida at South Carolina preview: Gators ready for road tussle with confident Gamecocks

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Florida vs. South Carolina preview: Donovan named USA Coach of the Year; Vitale rips NCAA

(10) FLORIDA GATORS SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 11-2 (0-0 SEC) Record: 7-6 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

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

TV: Comcast Sports Southeast (Matt Stewart, Daymeon Fishback) [Channel Finder]
SiriusXM: 110/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Odds: Florida -16.5

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 40-22 all-time against South Carolina with a 24-11 record against the Gamecocks since Donovan has been coach of the Gators. UF is also 19-7 against USC at home (13-4 under Donovan) and has won four-straight in the O’Dome.
» One of the hottest teams in the country, Florida is on a five-game winning streak and has been victorious in 10 of its last 11 games.
» South Carolina has won four-straight games entering Wednesday night.
» The Gators are attempting to tie the school record for longest home winning streak. UF has won 23-straight games in the O’Dome, going undefeated at its home gym last season.
» Florida is 12-5 in SEC openers (8-0 in Gainesville) under Donoavn.
» The Gators are 64-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points.
» Florida is 5-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» UF will be putting out the same starting five for the seventh time in its last eight games. In the Gators’ first seven contests, Florida rolled out four different starting lineups.

DONOVAN NAMED USA COACH OF THE YEAR

Donovan on Wednesday was named the 2013 USA Basketball Co-National Coach of the Year after leading the Americans to a 9-0 record and gold medal at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships last summer.

“This was such a special event, and I’m very thankful to USA Basketball for the opportunity to coach this team and appreciative of this honor,” Donovan said in a statement. “I thought the people in the Czech Republic did a great job hosting the World Championship. Prague was a great city… I thought the USA did a really great job of fielding a good team and providing a lot of options to put together a great team.”

Continue Reading » Florida vs. South Carolina preview: Donovan named USA Coach of the Year; Vitale rips NCAA

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Prather returns as Florida takes on South Carolina

No. 4/4 FLORIDA GATORS SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 16-2 (6-0 SEC) Record: 12-7 (2-4 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 8:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Barry Booker) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 92/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter and SportsYapper app

Odds: Florida -23.5 | O/U (OFF)

BACK AT FULL STRENGTH

Florida announced just over an hour before tip-off that junior forward Casey Prather, who has missed the last four games after suffering a high-ankle sprain on Jan. 12, has been cleared by team trainers and will return to the court on Wednesday.

As OGGOA previously reported on Jan. 21, Prather was expected to return to game action at some point this week.

He travelled with the team and participated in shoot around before the Gators’ last game at Mississippi State but did not play.

Head coach Billy Donovan said Monday that Prather had begun participating in non-contact work in practice. He later noted that he would not play Wednesday and was questionable to return on Saturday.

One of Florida’s three primary reserves, Prather is an important member of the Gators’ in-game rotation. It will be just the ninth time this season that Florida has had all eight players healthy and active for a game.

MOVING ON UP

Senior guard Kenny Boynton continues to shoot up the school’s charts. On Wednesday, he will have the opportunity to surpass Eugene McDowell (4,100) for second-most minutes played in school history as he enters the game with 4,071. Boynton will be starting his 124th game, tying him with Andrew Moten for third all-time with the Gators. With two three-pointers in the game, he will tie Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins (306) at sixth on the SEC’s all-time list.

More on Boynton’s school and conference rankings in OGGOA‘s extensive Florida-Ole Miss gameday preview on Saturday.

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Harris, Wambach, Tebow

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario is one of four American college basketball players who were invited to try out for the Puerto Rico Senior National Team, SNY.tv’s Adam Zagoria reports. Rosario, who joined Florida two years ago but played for the Gators for the first time this past season, has a good chance to make the team. “We worked really hard to get Mike this opportunity,” Puerto Rico Playmakers founder Todd Washington told Zagoria. “This is a huge year for Mike. It’s his last year at Florida and his turn to lead the team. Coach [Billy] Donovan was incredibly supportive of Mike coming down to Puerto Rico. He knew how important this was to Mike and his family. Mike is in Jersey City working out twice a day and doing everything he can to get in the best shape of his career.”

2 » While still going after five-star power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV) and keeping a close eye on center Bradley Hayes (Jacksonville, FL), Florida basketball continues its pursuit of big men to add to the roster. Enter PF Damontre Harris, a class of 2010 player who committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks but is planning to transfer now that head coach Frank Martin took over the program. According to CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman, Harris is visiting the Gators this week and believed to have narrowed down his future to either Florida, Kansas…or possibly returning to South Carolina. Harris, who averaged 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 25.9 minutes per game last season, would be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season. He would have two years of eligibility remaining.

3 » Former Gators striker Abby Wambach, who had a series of unforgettable moments and performances in the 2011 World Cup over the summer, was included on a list of the Top 40 Athletes of the Title IX Era published by Sports Illustrated on Wednesday. Below is the entry explaining why she is on the list.

It’s no pun to say Wambach plays head and shoulders above the competition. That’s where the 5-foot-11 forward, famed for her aerial attacks. In 2004, Wambach headed a goal in extra time to give the U.S. a 2-1 win over Brazil and the gold medal in the World Cup. In the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup, she scored on another header, pushing the U.S. past Brazil again. The five-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year led the now-defunct Washington Freedom to the WUSA’s Founder’s Cup title in 2004. At the University of Florida, Wambach set school records for goals (96), assists (49), points (241), game-winning goals (24) and hat tricks (10).

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow attended Kingsley-Pierson High School prom on April 28 though he did not necessarily do so in the most conventional way. High school student Rachel Bird asked Tebow to be her prom date over Twitter (as well as through his team and his agent) but did not receive a response. After much consideration, she decided to spend $19.99 to create a cardboard cutout of Tebow at Staples and brought him along to the prom where he appears to have been a big hit. “He was a cheap date, and he didn’t talk much,” Bird joked when interviewed by the Sioux City Journal. “And when I asked him to stand in a corner, he did. I don’t think it even hurt his feelings. The after-prom [party] would have been too much. He was tired. He’d been smiling all night.”

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No. 24 Florida Gators vs. No. 6 Kansas State

Event: Orange Bowl Basketball Classic
Location: BankAtlantic Center – Sunrise, FL [Capacity: 20,737]
Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)

TV: FSN
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 24 FLORIDA GATORS No. 6 KANSAS ST. WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 7-2 Record: 9-1
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kansas State -1.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 7-2 when participating in the OBBC with their last loss coming to Richmond in 2009. The Gators’ previous loss in the event was in 1997.
» This is the first-ever meeting between Florida and Kansas State.
» The Gators are 12-9 all-time against current members of the Big 12. The team has earned a 2-1 mark in such games under Donovan.
» Florida has out-rebounded eight of nine opponents this season including their two losses. UF is averaging +7.3 rebounds per game more than their opposition.
»The Gators have forced 15.9 turnovers per game in their seven wins but only 8.5 per game in their two losses this season.
» Florida is 79-21 under Donovan in the month of December.
» Donovan needs just three victories to move into sole possession of third place in SEC history for most wins as an SEC head coach.
» Kansas State bests Florida in three of four major statistical categories nationally including points per game 76.2-70.9 (67th-161st), rebounds per game 42.4-36.8 (13th-132nd) and assists per game 15.3-14.3 (65th-108th). However, the Gators shoot better from the field than the Wildcats .482-.452 (33rd-100th).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 24.2 points per game and has accounted for 33 of their team’s 48 three-pointers this season. Boynton, however, is struggling as of late after shooting a combined 3-21 (1-14 from downtown) over the last two contests for a total of seven points.
» Sophomore forward Erik Murphy…who is really coming on this season after only seeing the court sparingly as a freshman. Murphy has posted double-digit points three times and played more than 16 minutes in seven of nine games.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting 75 percent over the last three games and is becoming a force for Florida inside the paint.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who, after going scoreless against Central Florida, has gone 15-23 from the field over the last two contests for 34 points.
» Senior F Chandler Parsons…who is averaging 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and is an integral part to the Gators’ success.
» Freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin…who has posted a commendable 21-6 assist-to-turnover ratio while running the point in relief of Walker.
» Kansas State star G Jacob Pullen…who is averaging 16.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Pullen has scored 18 points or more in half of his team’s games.
» Wildcats F Curtis Kelly…who is his team’s second-best scorer averaging 11.6 points along with 4.4 rebounds per game. Kelly missed KSU’s first three games of the season.

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12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

No. 24 Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

TIME OFF A MUCH-NEEDED BREAK FOR FLORIDA

With their longest stretch off between games this season coming to a close, the Gators have been trying to improve while simultaneously studying for finals over the last week. Nevertheless, Donovan believes the time off has been a positive for the team, which has plenty to improve on through its first nine games this year.

“That’s been good for us,” he said. “It’s been pretty productive. We practiced on Sunday and Monday, took Tuesday off and then Wednesday was a pretty big day for our guys academically. It’s always a balance. There’s so much demand on them academically in terms of papers and finals and things like that. We were able to get some work done on things we need to. Practice time has been good for our team. We have been able to address and work on some things we need to improve on.”

What exactly has the team made adjustments to over the last week? “Offensively just our ability to move the ball, catch the ball, pass it,” Donovan said. “Being a little bit more cohesive on offense. Trying to take advantage of our personnel. We’re getting better in that area. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’ve made some positive strides.

“The last four games we’ve done a pretty good job in terms of field goal percentage, defense, the number of points allowed. I’d like to see us defend the three-point line a little bit better than we are, but we got better there. The next step is: Can we put it all together? Can we defend like we need to and can we execute offensively in terms of taking advantage the five guys on the floor – them making decisions to make the game easy for each other.”

SHOOTING ISSUES ARE CONCERNING BUT CORRECTABLE

As a team Florida has really struggled shooting from, well, all over the floor. Though everyone is having issues, no one is performing worse right now while putting up shots than sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. Donovan, though concerned with his recent performances, believes confidence is the way Boynton can improve.

“That’s a really hard thing. One of the things I try to do as a coach is give our guys confidence. The worst thing is when a guy has an open shot and is tentative. That’s a real hard thing,” he said. “I think Dan Werner a little bit last year went through that. He wasn’t really sure when to shoot, when not to shoot. And you’re trying to instill confidence and give that confidence. At the end of the day, when a guy is shooting the basketball, as much as I can tell them to shoot that basketball, ‘I believe in you,’ the confidence still has to be internally that they believe it’s going in. And I try to help in that area.

“Kenny, in the last couple of games, has played phenomenal. He’s played great floor game. He’s defended very well; he’s been a much better help defender. He’s helped on the backboard and obviously his assist-to-turnover ratio has been much better. When you focus on things that you can do and you have control over, you have a better chance of making shots.”

To his credit, Boynton is doing exactly what Donovan is asking him to do. “You just keep shooting until you know, one game, it gets on, and then everything else will fall in place,” he said. “Not really too much in my head. Other than [three-point range] I’m shooting the ball 50 percent from the field. I just got to find other ways to score.”

Read much, much more from Donovan and UF basketball…after the break!
Continue Reading » 12/16: Donovan discusses team, Kansas State

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