Fastbreak: Florida edges Texas A&M 66-62

Florida Gators basketball (15-15, 8-9 SEC) won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month and returned to .500 with a 66-62 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies (20-9, 11-6 SEC) on Tuesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Three days after picking up his 500th career victory, head coach Billy Donovan won his 200th Southeastern Conference game, making him just the third coach ever to reach that milestone in league play.

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

It was over when: Five-straight points by redshirt junior guard Eli Carter (two free throws and a three-pointer) put Florida ahead 58-42 with just over three minutes to play and looked to put the game firmly in the Gators’ grasp. Instead, the Aggies began fouling and chipped away at that lead with a 20-7 run, cutting their deficit to three with 6.3 seconds left. UF went 8-for-18 from the charity stripe over the final two minutes.

“I think that, in the second half in particular, has been a real microcosm of our team mentally. We’re not a mentally-strong team,” Donovan said of the free throw shooting issues. “At the end of the game, you can’t just take two point guards off the floor from a ball-handling standpoint. So at some point, those guys got to make free throws. You look at those guys’ free throw percentages, calling it like it is, those guys felt a lot of pressure. They felt a lot of pressure. That’s what’s happened to our team a lot this year is we have these mental lapses.”

Significant stretch: Leading by two, the Gators put their foot on the gas and exploded on a 14-0 run, boosting Florida ahead of Texas A&M 47-31 with eight minutes to play. Redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy scored nine points (including seven-straight and six as part of the run), adding a block and a steal during the extended scoring stretch. “I really felt the last couple days here we’ve had some really good practices, in particular on the defensive end of the floor,” Donovan said. “For us I thought, defensively, all the way around … we did a much better job. I thought we made some strides defensively.”

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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.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers – Time running out for UF to improve

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones, Kara Lawson)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 134/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Donnie Tyndall
Record: 13-15 (6-9 SEC) Record: 14-13 (6-9 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U 116

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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.”

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Gameday: Florida Gators at Missouri Tigers – Billy Donovan goes for win No. 500 with lacking team

Location: Mizzou Arena – Columbia, Missouri [Capacity: 15,061]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Matt Stewart, Darrin Horn)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 119/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS MISSOURI TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kim Anderson
Record: 13-14 (6-8 SEC) Record: 7-20 (1-13 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -7

APPROACHING 500

Likely the last game Florida will be favored in this season, the Gators have a chance to get back in the winning column while providing Donovan with his all-important 500th victory on Tuesday night. Donovan, 49, who will be coaching in his 703rd game, has an opportunity to become the second-youngest coach to 500 wins, only behind the legendary Bobby Knight.

Asked on Monday to look back on his career and achievements – including two national championships and four appearances in the Final Four – Donovan deflected the praise (as usual) and gave a lot of credit to those that have been with him along the way.

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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.

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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.

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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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