Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current discuss the Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) was riding high on Saturday as the team prepared to play in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the AT&T Center in Arlington, TX. There was so much written about the team by former and current student-athletes, in fact, that this post had to be limited to those either with ties to the basketball program or in attendance at the game.

Though the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) were victorious and eliminated Florida from the event, there was still plenty of well-wishers after the contest. Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game.

PRE-GAME

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Ex-Gators praise (1) Florida after Pittsburgh win

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (34-2) has been strong from former members of the program all season long, and it continued on Saturday after the team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season with a 61-45 victory over the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) in the Round of 32 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. Check out what nearly a dozen former Florida basketball players had to say about their team’s victory.


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14 Gator Bites for Tuesday, February 19

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Rather than doubling down on disappointment while stuck playing in the state North Carolina, No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (4-1) came from behind on Monday to pick up a huge victory over the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC, which took over for UF as the No. 1 team in the country last week, held a 2-0 advantage over its visitors after winning the doubles point and a singles match to start the contest. The Gators answered by rallying with four consecutive singles match victories to pick up the 4-2 win. First, junior Olivia Janowicz took down No. 79 Tessa Lyons 6-2, 6-1. Freshman Brianna Morgan then picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 122 Lauren McHale, leaving the match in the hands of Florida’s two best players. No. 4 senior Lauren Embree came through in the clutch once again with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 victory against No. 7 Gina Suarez-Malaguti, and No. 9 junior Sofie Oyen fought hard on court two to defeat No. 30 Zoe De Bruycker 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. UF’s loss on Sunday at No. 4 Duke was its first in over a year’s time. By taking down the Tar Heels on Monday, the Gators avoided falling in consecutive matches for the first time in three years.

» Former Florida guard Matt Walsh, who signed a deal with Spirou Charleroi of Belgium in August 2012, told OGGOA on Monday that his contract has been purchased by Brose Baskets of Bamberg, Germany. The three-time defending German champions play in the Euroleague and are hoping Walsh helps push them to a fourth-straight title.

» Despite multiple reports pointing to the contrary, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on Friday said he has “no intent” of trading wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Harvin raised concerns about Minnesota’s offense (and how he was not utilized much) prior to the 2012 season and reportedly got into an explosive verbal argument with head coach Leslie Frazier during the season. While it does look like he and the Vikings will split ways, multiple players have come out in his defense and expressed their desire to see him return to the team. The latest to do so is quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he “obviously” wants Harvin to return because “he’s a tremendous player” and “a heck of a part of this offense and this team in general.” Ponder told KFAN in Minneapolis, MN that he and Harvin have a good relationship and “spent some extra time together” working on their on-field chemistry during the last offseason.

Read 11 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
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Billy Donovan talks about hitting 400 wins

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan won the 400th game of his career on Monday when Florida routed Stetson 96-70 in Orlando, FL. Following the game, Donovan was hit with a Gatorade shower in the locker room and got to celebrate for a short while with the team and visitors Chandler Parsons and Jason Williams. In his post-game press conference, Donovan spoke at length about reaching 400 victories and his coaching career.

On what winning 400 games means to him: “One, I’m definitely clearly getting older. A guy like Jason Williams is here at the game, and he was obviously a part of it when it first started, coaching him. Chandler came in the locker room [and I thought about] his time here. Joakim Noah has been on campus a lot with the lockout. The Brent Wrights of the world. The [Udonis] Haslems. I think more about the time here and the guys that have come through. There have been a lot of special guys. Not only the guys that people get a chance to watch that are in the NBA, because those are obvious guys, but the Justin Hamiltons, the Brent Wrights, the Major Parkers – that first recruiting class. Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Brett Nelson, there have been so many guys that have come through that were close to making the NBA that maybe didn’t make it that had a huge significance and impact on our program. It’s not just the NBA guys, it’s a lot of really good quality kids I’ve coached for a period of time. It’s hard to believe you see Jason Williams. The guy is married, he already has a couple of kids and is retired from the NBA. It’s definitely a reflection that time is moving on and you’re getting older.”

Read everything else Billy Donovan had to say…after the break!
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Taurean Green: “We knew nobody could beat us.”

Overseas in Spain starting every game for C.B. Gran Canaria 2014 of the ACB, former Florida Gators two-time National Championship-winning point guard Taurean Green took some nearly 45 minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging, in-depth interview late Tuesday evening.

Green, one of the four members of the Oh Fours and an integral part to the team’s success from 2005-07, discussed at length his college career and continuing relationship with his Gators teammates and coaches. He also provided some insight into what the current team is going through during their 2011 NCAA Tournament run and how they can improve going forward and make the most out of their opportunity.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: With your father being a former NBA player and college coach as your adviser, what was it about Florida and Billy Donovan that had you winding up playing for the Gators out of high school?
TAUREAN GREEN: “Obviously Coach Donovan was a huge factor, the style of play, Coach [Anthony] Grant was a huge factor, too. It was just basically the style of play, how they get up-and-down [the court], and he’s a guard’s coach. I knew that he played for a great coach in Rick Pitino at Providence, and then he played some years in the NBA. Just from what everybody told me and from what I heard, he’s a guard’s coach and you’ll definitely get better [playing for him]. He’ll give you freedom out there but along with the freedom comes responsibility in running the team.”

AS: Your first year at Florida was obviously an adjustment as there were still a bunch of upperclassmen holding starting roles on the team. How was it walking into a team with established guys like David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson already comfortable with each other and running the show?
TG: “That was good for me. Some guys can adapt – you see freshmen get thrown into the fire right away nowadays. I felt like I needed that year to go against Anthony Roberson and all those guys just to get my feet wet. At the same time, I knew that I was going to be getting better going against Peep every day in practice. They led the way, and we just tried to contribute in whatever way we could.”

AS: You won the SEC Tournament that season and were a No. 4-seed going into the NCAA Tournament. What was it like playing at such a big stage so early in your career?
TG: “It was fun! When I was at Florida, the main thing was we just lived in the moment. We took it game-by-game. We wanted to do stuff that no other team really had done at Florida. We knew that we had David, Matt and Anthony, and we just wanted to contribute in any way we could. The main thing was just going out and playing hard, doing whatever it took to win.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Taurean Green…after the break!
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No. 13 Florida vs. Georgia Gameday Preview

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2 / ESPN2HD / ESPN3D
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Sirius/XM: 121/141
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 13 FLORIDA GATORS GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mark Fox
Record: 21-5 (10-2) Record: 18-8 (7-5)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Georgia 104-96. The Gators have won 13 out of the last 15 games in the series against the Bulldogs and are 21-7 overall against them under Donovan including 11-2 in Gainesville.
» UF has won eight-straight games against UGA in the O’Dome.
» With a victory, the Gators will clinch the SEC East division and earn an automatic first-round bye in the 2011 SEC Tournament.
» Florida has won 16 of its last 19 games (and 13 of their last 15) with 11 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are 18-1 (7-0 in SEC play) when holding an opponent under 70 points this season after limiting LSU to 61 on Sunday.
» Florida junior point guard Erving Walker, with 192 three-pointers, is tied for sixth all-time at Florida with Matt Walsh. He is six treys away from moving into the top five.
» Defeating Tennessee two Saturdays ago, UF reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. They have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» A win Thursday would give Florida six-straight victories against SEC opponents for the first time since 2007 (11).
» The Gators hold advantages over the Bulldogs in a pair of major national statistical categories. Florida scores more points per game 70.8-69.9 (121st-149th) and shoots a better percentage .457-.454 (77th-94th), but Georgia dishes more assists per game 15.6-13.7 (28th-125th). The teams are equals off the glass, each grabbing an average of 38.3 rebounds per game. The Gators rank 12th in RPI (.6353) and 10th in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Bulldogs being 38th (.5923) and 31st, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and Georgia will square off for the second time this season; the Gators defeated the Bulldogs in a 104-91 double-overtime thriller in Athens, GA on Jan. 25. In the contest, Walker hit a dagger three-pointer to force a second overtime and Parsons took over in the final period to give the Gators a hard-fought victory.

PARSONS LIMITED FOR GATORS ON THURSDAY

Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons, who is averaging double-digit points (10.8) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, will be limited on Thursday after suffering a deep thigh bruise two Saturdays ago against Tennessee. He received treatment on the injury for 11 consecutive days and missed Sunday’s game at LSU but will be active and able to contribute Thursday even though he will not start. Freshman F Casey Prather will take his place in the starting lineup.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.8 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.426) and three-point percentage (.390). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (66) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.3 percent from the floor this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 36.4 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.1 points per game and makes a team-high 83.1 percent of his free throws.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Prather…who will likely earn his second start for the orange and blue on Thursday. The freshman only plays an average of 7.3 minutes per game but is shooting at a 45.7 percent clip on 35 shot attempts this season.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.4 boards off the bench.
» Georgia F Trey Thompkins…who is the standout performer on his team. Thompkins averages team-highs in points per game (16.0), rebounds (7.7) and blocks (1.8).
» Bulldogs F Travis Leslie…who compliments Thompkins nicely and is second on his team with 14.0 points and 7.1 boards per game.

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No. 14 Florida Gators at LSU Tigers Gameday

Location: Pete Maravich Assembly Center – Baton Rouge, LA [Capacity: 13,472]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 14 FLORIDA GATORS LSU TIGERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Trent Johnson
Record: 20-5 (9-2) Record: 10-16 (2-9)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -10.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» LSU leads the all-time series against Florida 60-38, has won six out of the last nine games in the series, and has not dropped a home game to UF since 2003. However, the Gators defeated the Tigers 72-58 last season.
» Donovan is now 10-8 all-time against LSU and 3-4 when facing them on the road. Conversely, Johnson is 1-1 against UF.
» Florida has won 15 of their last 18 games with 11 victories against RPI top 100 teams. The Gators are 6-1 on the road this season, which includes a 4-1 record in SEC play; they were 8-9 away from home last year. A victory Sunday would give UF seven true road wins for the first time since 2003.
» Florida is 3-1 against the SEC West this season after finishing a perfect 6-0 in the division last year. They are 53-17 against the division since 2000. LSU is 0-3 against the SEC East this season.
» The Gators earned back-to-back victories against ranked opponents for the first time since 2007, defeating then-No. 24 Vanderbilt and then-No. 11 Kentucky two weeks ago.
» Florida improved to 17-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season after limiting South Carolina to 60 points last Wednesday.
» UF is 11-0 this season when forcing more turnovers than their opponents and 4-0 in SEC play when dishing 15 or more assists.
» The Gators will be without senior forward Chandler Parsons Sunday afternoon; a deep thigh bruise has ended his streak of 43 consecutive starts.
» Florida junior point guard Erving Walker is a trio of three-pointers away from tying the career total of Matt Walsh (192); the mark would place him sixth all-time in school history. Nine treys from Walker would move him into the top five.
» Defeating Tennessee on Saturday, UF reached 20 wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC.
» The Gators best the Tigers in all four major statistical categories. Florida holds advantages in points per game 71-62.4 (120th-306th), rebounding 38.2-35.5 (39th-149th), assists 13.9-11.4 (106th-285th) and field goal percentage .458-.401 (78th-318th). UF ranks 12th in RPI (.6389) and seventh in strength of schedule nationally compared to their opponent being 215th (.4704) and 114th, respectively.

GATORS WITHOUT PARSONS ON SUNDAY

Parsons, who is averaging double-digit points (10.8) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, will not be active Sunday after suffering a deep thigh bruise last Saturday against Tennessee, the University of Florida announced Saturday evening. He underwent treatment for the injury throughout the week and even traveled with the team to Baton Rouge but is simply not healthy enough to get on the court. Florida was hopeful Parsons could be ready as the team had eight consecutive days off for him to heal. With the Gators’ next game not until Thursday, he could have up to 11 days off should he not return to practice early in the week. It is expected that freshman F Casey Prather will start in his place, though Donovan could choose to go with a smaller lineup including freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin instead.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.7 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.423) and three-point percentage (.385). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (63) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 58.3 percent from the floor this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 5.9 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 36.1 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 12.9 points per game and makes a team-high 82.9 percent of his free throws.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Prather…who will likely earn his first start for the orange and blue on Sunday. The freshman only plays an average of 6.9 minutes per game but is shooting at a 48.5 percent clip on 33 shot attempts this season.
» Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.3 boards off the bench.
» LSU Gs Ralston Turner and Andre Stringer…who are both freshmen yet their team’s best scorers. The duo combines for 24.2 points per game while each playing 30-31 minutes every contest. Turner is the better three-point shooter (33.6 percent), but Stringer is the best free throw shooter of the starting five (76.3 percent).
» Tigers F Malcom White…who is his team’s third-leading scorer with 8.5 points per game. White also averages 5.5 boards and shoots a team-best 47 percent from the field.

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F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
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