Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) pulled away late in the second half to take down the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) with a 79-68 victory in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

SCOTTIE TOO HOTTIE

It would be unfair and inaccurate to say senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the main reason the Gators won but there is no question that his late-game heroics shut the door on the Bruins and were a catalyst that sent Florida to its fourth Elite Eight in as many seasons.

Starting 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, Wilbekin hit his last three shots (one three), scored six-straight points and somehow finished with 13 points, the second-most posted by a UF player on Thursday.

“I just tried to keep attacking, stay aggressive and take what they gave me,” he said. “My shots weren’t falling in the first half, even in the beginning of the second half. So, I just tried to stay the course and keep playing my game.”

Wilbekin’s three makes were not only clutch, each was impressive. First, despite being way off from downtown most of the night, he drained a pull-up three to push Florida ahead by eight. On the very next possession, he took the ball to the rack and was fouled on the way, converting an old-fashioned three-point play that gave the Gators a game-high 11-point lead.

Continue Reading » Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida blows past (4) UCLA 79-68 in Sweet 16, advances to fourth-straight Elite Eight

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth-straight season with a 79-68 victory Thursday over the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

Florida improved to 7-1 in Sweet 16 games under head coach Billy Donovan with seven-straight victories that advanced the program to the Elite Eight (2000, 2006-07, 2011-14). The Gators also extended their winning streak to a school-record 29 games and have now claimed victories in 34 of its last 35 contests.

UF is now 4-0 all-time against UCLA (all in NCAA Tournament play).

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Freshman point guard Kasey Hill hustled hard for an offensive rebound with 1:35 to play and got fouled as soon as he grabbed it. Hill converted the ensuing free throws to push Florida ahead by nine. Less than 20 seconds later, after the Gators gave up a jumper, senior forward Casey Prather got fed on the fastbreak and slammed home an exclamation point dunk to put the icing on the cake. Hill had a career-high 10 assists to go along with six points and six boards, while Prather chipped in 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the free throw line with three rebounds and two blocks.

Prominent players: Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II carried the scoring burden most of the evening, posting a team-high 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from downtown with six boards, three assists and a steal. His five triples also set a new school record for most in a single-season as he has now accumulated 115 in the 2013-14 campaign.

However, it was senior PG Scottie Wilbekin who took over late in the second half. Wilbekin scored eight points in less than four minutes, shaking off his 2-for-10 start from the field. Wilbekin wound up with 13 points (second-most on the team) and three dimes despite going 2-for-8 from three. He did not turn the ball over despite playing 35 minutes.

Significant stretch: Leading by one midway through the second half with Prather and senior center Patric Young both on the bench with four fouls, Florida responded to a 7-0 UCLA run with a 10-0 stretch to take a 66-55 lead with 5:34 remaining. Wilbekin, who started 1-for-7 from three, drained a timely triple and converted a And1 attempt on a heavily contested layup for six-straight points to push UF up a game-high 11 points.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida blows past (4) UCLA 79-68 in Sweet 16, advances to fourth-straight Elite Eight

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Memphis, TN: (1) Florida Gators vs. (4) UCLA Bruins

Location: FedEx Forum – Memphis, TN [Capacity: 18,119]
Time: 9:45 p.m. EDT (or 30 minutes after the conclusion of Stanford-Dayton)

TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols)
SiriusXM: 92/190 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Sweet 16 Tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (4) UCLA BRUINS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Steve Alford
Record: 34-2 Record: 28-8
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Pac-12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5 | O/U: 137

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 8-0 record overall with that seed winning the national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Bruins earned the right to play in the Sweet 16 by defeating (12) Stephen F. Austin 77-60 in the Round of 32 on Sunday.
» Florida has played 56 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 40-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 44 of those 56 games under Donovan, going 33-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 7-2 in Sweet 16 games all-time, 6-1 under Donovan with six-straight victories that advanced the program to the Elite Eight (2000, 2006, 2007, 2011-13). Florida has not failed to advance to the Elite Eight while playing in a Sweet 16 game since 1999. In its last six NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gators have won back-to-back national championships (2006-07) and advanced to three-straight Elite Eights (2011-13).
» Florida is 3-0 all-time against UCLA with all three games played since 2006 in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators defeated the Bruins for the 2006 national title, in the 2007 Final Four and in the Round of 32 in 2011.
» UF enters Thursday’s fourth-round game on a program-record 28-game winning streak with victories in 33 of its last 34 games.
» The Gators are 85-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 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.
» Florida is 7-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 24-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» Florida won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and can set a school record for most wins in a season by winning two more games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Memphis, TN: (1) Florida Gators vs. (4) UCLA Bruins

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Next for Chris Walker: NBA or Donovan process?

One way or another, the 2014 NCAA Tournament comes to an end in less than two weeks and a number of Florida Gators will need to sit down and evaluate their basketball-playing careers at that time.

That future remains somewhat decided for Florida’s four seniors, all of whom will first look to the NBA but almost certainly play professional basketball somewhere next season.

A number of other Gators will have a variety of options on the table.

Junior guard Eli Carter must determine whether he believes he will physically be able to play next season when he will be 19 months removed from a broken leg. Sophomore G Dillon Graham, coming off surgery for bone spurs in his hips, will also have to reevaluate his situation at Florida. Even if completely healthy, will he see much playing time in 2014-15 after an infusion of talent arrives at UF in the fall?

Then there’s the five-star freshmen. Though it was point guard Kasey Hill who opened the season as a starter and has seen extensive playing time throughout the campaign, leaving early for the NBA does not appear to be in his cards at this time.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is power forward Chris Walker, who has averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in just 5.1 minutes over the 15 games he has played since joining the team late and first taking the court on Feb. 4.

Once considered a sure-fire lottery selection, Walker’s sometimes-haphazard play and lack of collegiate practice time (just over three months) has exposed holes in his game.

Scouts now have questions about whether he could even be a productive rookie – and therefore a worthwhile first-round selection – which has most projecting the draft mocking him in the 20-30 range based purely on athleticism and upside.

As it turns out, Gators head coach Billy Donovan feels the same way.

Continue Reading » Next for Chris Walker: NBA or Donovan process?

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Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

Much has been written about the offseason suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, which lasted five games into the 2013-14 season, and the road laid out for him by head coach Billy Donovan to return to the Florida Gators.

During a Monday afternoon appearance on ESPN Radio‘s SVP & Russillo, Donovan provided additional insight into Wilbekin’s offseason struggles, explaining why he put so many obstacles in Wilbekin’s way while relating a story about how, with one gesture, his floor general went from outcast to full-fledged team member.

First, some background. Suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules – his third infraction overall and second in a seven-month span – Wilbekin was told by Donovan that it would likely be best for him to transfer and start over elsewhere. If he did choose to stay with the Gators, the Gainesville, FL-native’s hometown team, earning his way back in the good graces of his coach and teammates would be a tall task that he may not have the necessary motivation or discipline to scale.

“Scottie Wilbekin’s situation was a unique one not only from the standpoint of a suspension, but I do think there were some guys on our team that were disappointed in him, there were some guys that had to regain trust, so to speak.. And he needed to be put into a situation – because he does have good leadership qualities – to be able to do that,” Donovan began.

“One of the things I felt like in looking at the whole thing is I was very disappointed, our team was very disappointed in some of the choices and decisions Scottie made. When he made the decision that he wanted to stay here and he wanted to battle and fight his way through, I do think there was a lot of guys on our team that were a little bit skeptical of how committed is he to us. How committed is he to this team? He’s making bad choices and in the past he’s not been committed [off the court].”

Continue Reading » Donovan’s discipline, Wilbekin’s work, Young’s extended hand set up Florida Gators for success

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3/24: Defensive-minded (1) Florida begins preparations for offensive juggernaut (4) UCLA

Head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media on Monday, two days after the No. 1 Florida Gators (34-2) advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season and sixth time int he last nine years.

Florida will face the No. 4-seed UCLA Bruins (28-8) on Thursday at approximately 9:45 p.m. in Memphis, TN at the FedEx Forum. The game will air live nationally on CBS, tipping off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the other South Region showdown between No. 10-seed Stanford and No. 11-seed Dayton.

The Gators are 3-0 against the Bruins in NCAA Tournament play with all three games played in the prior eight seasons. UF had to go through UCLA to capture both of its national titles, winning 73-57 to bring home the 2006 championship and 76-66 in the Final Four of the 2007 tournament. Florida is 7-2 all-time in the Sweet 16 with a 6-1 record under Donovan including six-straight wins dating back to 2000.

INJURY UPDATES

Despite being seen after the Pittsburgh game with ice on his knee, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said he “feels fine” and that the injury was simply a bruise that he likely suffered by bumping knees during the game.

Donovan said he has not heard any concerns from Florida’s training staff in regards to Wilbekin’s health. “We were off [Sunday] but no complaints. The trainer didn’t say anything. [Wilbekin] went in, he was diagnosed with a bruise or just kind of banged knees – actually thought at first it was some cramps because he’s had some cramping issues during the course of the year,” he said. “But there’s no issues right now, at least that I’ve been aware of or made aware of as it relates to him practicing and going forward.”

Continue Reading » 3/24: Defensive-minded (1) Florida begins preparations for offensive juggernaut (4) UCLA

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Nate Silver upgrades Florida to likeliest ’14 champ

Statistician Nate Silver, who nailed the 2012 presidential race and has earned well-deserved praise for his rigorous statistical analyses, early Monday morning updated his probabilities for the remainder of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and came away with even better news for Florida Gators fans hoping to see their team win its third national championship – first since 2007.

Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com model projects that Florida has an 18.4 percent chance to win the national title (+3.9 percent*), making it the overall favorite in the remaining field. Louisville (16.8 percent) and Arizona (16.5 percent) are the only other teams with winning probabilities above 10 percent.

Silver broke down the Gators’ probability to advance in each individual round of the tournament. Florida has a 71.6 percent chance to move on to its fourth-straight Elite Eight (+9.2 percent), 59.7 percent chance to reach the Final Four (+18.6 percent) and 35.5 percent chance to play in the national title game (+9.4 percent).

With the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds both eliminated in the South Region, UF is the odds-on favorite to represent the team in the Final Four. No. 4 seed UCLA has a 19.2 percent change to win two more games, while No. 10 seed Stanford and No. 11 seed Dayton each have less than an 11 percent chance of winning the Regional Final.

The Gators (34-2) have the nation’s longest active winning streak at 28 games.

Check out the methodology Silver uses to make his NCAA predictions.

* Percent changes based on original probability projections before tournament began.

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4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every on Sunday clinched his first-ever PGA Tour victory, winning the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL. Every, whose third-round 66 vaulted him into the lead, finished -13 for the tournament and edged Keegan Bradley by a single stroke. The victory results in him receiving earnings of $1.12 million (more than he has made in the rest of his career, combined), 500 FedEx Cup points and an automatic qualification to the 2014 Masters in April. A native of Daytona Beach, FL, Every played at Bay Hill dozens of times throughout his life and long dreamed of winning a PGA Tour event at the course, which is located about an hour from where he grew up.

At Florida from 2003-06, Every was a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection. He is the second former Gators golfer to capture a PGA Tour event title in as many years after Billy Horschel won the 2013 Zurich Classic last April.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

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