Fastbreak: Florida Gators basketball fights hard but falls to No. 1 Michigan State 58-52

Florida Gators basketball (6-3) lost its second straight contest – both to ranked opponents – after being taken down 56-52 Saturday night by the No. 1 Michigan State Spartans (12-0) at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.

The Gators have now fallen to the three best teams they’ve faced this season, thought Florida has continuously flashed and shown signs of improvement through the first five weeks of the campaign. breaks down Saturday’s loss with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: The Gators unraveled – just a bit – late in the contest. Taking a six-point lead with 91 seconds to play, the Spartans did so by forcing two turnovers and seeing Florida commit an unforced error by batting a defensive rebound out of bounds. Michigan State hung tough from there as the visitors continued missing shots and simply did not make a dent in MSU’s advantage.

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Gameday – Florida Gators vs. No. 1 Michigan State: What to know, how to watch live, picks

Florida Gators basketball has struggled against the two ranked teams it faced this season and will be up against great odds Saturday when it takes on the No. 1 Michigan State Spartans on the road at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.

Here’s a look ahead at the game: what to know and how to watch Florida-Michigan State.

Viewing information

Location: Breslin Center – East Lansing, Michigan [Capacity: 14,759]
Time: 6:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Jason Benetti, Jim Calhoun)
Streaming Video: Watch ESPN
Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app (iPhone) / (Android)
SiriusXM: 84 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

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A conversation with the Florida Gators’ executive associate AD: Changes to football and basketball

On the heels of one of the biggest transitional offseasons in program history, Florida Gators executive associate athletic director Mike Hill sat down with for 45 minutes to discuss chances to the football and basketball programs, the inner workings of the University Athletic Association and whether athletic director Jeremy Foley really is that resistant to special uniforms for the football team.

Hill, who has just begun his 23rd season at Florida, is also largely responsible for the Gators’ basketball scheduling, which has been turned upside down due to changes in renovation plans for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

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Florida basketball announces 2015-16 non-conference schedule, including Michigan State

Florida Gators basketball on Tuesday officially announced its 2015-16 nonconference schedule, which includes a long-rumored but previously unannounced road game against Michigan State.

The two programs have agreed to a home-and-home series with the Spartans scheduled to take a trip to face the Gators in Gainesville during the 2017-18 campaign, one year after Florida’s $60 million renovation of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center will be completed.

UF is 3-3 all-time against MSU, famously falling to Tom Izzo’s team during the 2000 NCAA National Championship, the program’s only title-game loss.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since we played Florida in the national championship game,” Izzo said in a school release. “To be able to mark the 15th anniversary with a game against the Gators is a special opportunity.”

The programs will actually square off three times in a four-year period with Florida and Michigan State also scheduled to play as part of a four-team barnstorming event set for major cities across the country in the 2018-19 season.

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Florida, Michigan State talking basketball series

Florida Gators and Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball are discussing a home-and-home series for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, according to

The Gators – which originally planned a barnstorming tour of the state of Florida while a $60 million renovation to their home arena, the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, forced them out of Gainesville, Florida, for the spring 2015 semester – are now looking to rearrange their schedule and add some home games as the renovation has been postponed one year.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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Donovan has no regrets, empathizes with Izzo

Returning to Orlando, FL, for a press conference would not have been a big deal for Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan…if his last media event in the city was anything other than him accepting the top job with the Orlando Magic three years ago after winning back-to-back National Championships.

Ironically, the Gators will play the Central Florida Knights on Dec. 1 in the Florida Citrus Sports Shootout – the first college basketball game in the brand new Amway Center (the future home of the Magic). And if he had not decided to return to Florida merely days after accepting the Orlando job, Donovan very well may have been coaching the Magic at the new arena – rather than the Gators.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t replay the decision in my mind a few times,” Donovan said Thursday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“[After you leave], you don’t always get the same college job and the same situation you had before,” he added. “I look at someone like Steve Spurrier. He left Florida and he’s back coaching in college at South Carolina. Certainly, South Carolina is not the same as Florida. When you leave a place, there’s a feeling like you can never go back again. So you better be sure when you leave.”

Donovan’s struggle mirrored the situation Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo faced over the last two weeks – trying to decide whether to take a large sum of money and potential to succeed in the NBA or continue to build his program on the college level. No one can empathize with this better than Donovan.

“I understand completely what Tom went through,” he said. “It’s such a hard decision because you know it’s a great opportunity in the NBA, but you have a situation in college where you have had an incredible personal investment into building something great. The amount of time and energy it takes to get a program to a certain level and then, to suddenly leave it, is extremely difficult.”

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TWO BITS: Rainey sticking around, basketball falls

1 » Amid speculation that he was considering entry into the 2010 NFL Draft, Florida Gators redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey told the Orlando Sentinel that he will stay in Gainesville, FL, for “at least another year.” With Rainey, sophomore Jeff Demps and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody all coming back next season, the Gators’ running back unit may be the deepest it has been in years. Also on the roster will be sophomore Mike Gillislee, redshirt junior walk-on Christopher Scott and four-star 2010 commitment Mack Brown (Lithonia, GA).

2 » After starting the 2009 campaign 8-0 including wins over the Florida State Seminoles and then-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans, the Florida basketball team rose to No. 10/11 in the AP and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 polls, respectively. Consecutive losses to the No. 5/5 Syracuse Orange and unranked Richmond Spiders (both at neutral sites) have since dropped the Gators down to a No. 18 ranking in both polls. Florida has returned home to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and will take on the South Alabama Jaguars Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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