Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Texas A&M Aggies – Super walk-on Jacob Kurtz set to be honored

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPNU (Rich Hollenberg, Dino Gaudio)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 136/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Billy Kennedy
Record: 14-15 (7-9 SEC) Record: 20-8 (11-5 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -4

SUPER WALK-ON WALKS OFF

The origin story for Florida super redshirt senior walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz is well-known by now.

Once a mild-mannered student at Florida who asked to watch practice inside the Gators’ facility, Kurtz was granted the opportunity to do so by Donovan and quickly became a constant presence around the team. Seeing Kurtz was extremely interested and undoubtedly persistent, Donovan let him begin contributing to the program as a glorified custodian who mopped the floors and took care of the laundry. “The Snake” then slithered his way into a role as an official team manager. Then one day, Florida was short on bodies for a practice, so Donovan asked if Kurtz wanted to run around with the team. That’s when everything changed.

“Then it was like, ‘Wow, this guy is not that bad. Would you like to play?’ ‘Oh yeah, I would love to play,’ [Kurtz replied]. Then he is in practice every day and all of a sudden he is playing and he was very, very cerebral and he was smart and pays attention,” Donovan recalled on Monday.

“I give him a lot of credit for perseverance, patience and resiliency and being really smart and always being ready. He took advantage of his opportunity and was prepared for his opportunity.”

Continue Reading » Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Texas A&M Aggies – Super walk-on Jacob Kurtz set to be honored

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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.

OnlyGators.com 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.”

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: Florida whips Tennessee 66-49, earns Gators coach Billy Donovan career win No. 500

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Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

If the Florida Gators on the roster Tuesday had any respect for head coach Billy Donovan, they certainly did not show it. Florida (13-15, 6-9 SEC) was embarrassed once again this season as the worst team in the Southeastern Conference, losers of 13-straight games, upended the Gators 64-52.

The Missouri Tigers (8-20, 2-13 SEC) dominated the visitors over the latter 20 minutes of Tuesday’s contest, outscoring Florida 37-21 in the second half while ending the game on a 24-5 run at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.

Donovan had no choice but to sit back and watch as his team struggled on both ends of the court, combining poor shooting in every facet of the game with lacking effort on defense and terrible decision making throughout the contest.

“We really made a lot of, really a lot of poor choices, things that — to be quite honest — left me scratching my head,” Donovan said. “We had Kasey Hill reaching across the out of bounds line for a technical foul, an Eli Carter foul before the ball ever came in bounds while the game was obviously in reach, a Devin Robinson foul. Our fouling enabled them to get to the free throw line. With 13 minutes to go we’re in the bonus and we never really could take advantage of it. For us, we got to the free throw line 23 times, which is drastically more than we normally go, but certainly hard to win when you go 9-for-23. Even when we did get there, we weren’t able to capitalize. We just didn’t make enough smart basketball plays in the game.”

OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s action with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: Missouri guard Namon Wright bombed in a three-pointer with 4:16 remaining, pushing the hosts ahead by six and putting Florida in a deficit that it was unable to overcome. Wright, who averaged 5.4 points on 32 percent shooting entering Tuesday’s game, scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting, hitting 6-of-8 treys. The Tigers only increased their lead from there. “We didn’t really have anybody [who could cover him],” Donovan said. “Give him credit. He really got it going, shot the ball very well. Tonight, he was a hard match-up for us. We really didn’t have anybody who could stop him.”

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: SEC-worst Missouri embarrasses Florida 64-52 in Columbia

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Fastbreak: LSU dismantles Florida, again, 70-63

The Florida Gators were embarrassed by the LSU Tigers on Jan. 20 when LSU ended Florida’s 20-game home winning streak against Southeastern Conference opponents that dated back two years. If Florida was looking for revenge Saturday, it didn’t show that to be the case as the Tigers ran past the Gators 70-63 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

LSU (19-8, 8-6 SEC) swept Florida (13-14, 6-8 SEC) over two regular-season games for the first time since 1991, the last occasion the two SEC rivals squared off in a home-and-home series. The Gators also lost consecutive games to the Tigers for the first time since 2008-09.

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

It was over when: Florida cut its deficit to six with less than seven minutes to play, but LSU immediately responded with a 9-0 run, capped by a three from Jalyn Patterson, to take a 63-47 lead that was simply insurmountable for the Gators.

Significant stretch: The Tigers built on their first half-ending 9-0 run, extending it to a 17-2 stretch to regain their massive lead and eventually jump ahead by a game-high 16 points early in the second half.

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: LSU dismantles Florida, again, 70-63

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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.

OnlyGators.com 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.

Continue Reading » The Fastbreak: Florida edges Vanderbilt 50-47

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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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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.

OnlyGators.com 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.

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

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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.

OnlyGators.com 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.

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: Florida outlasts Arkansas 57-56

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