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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Fastbreak: (1) Florida outclasses (9) Pittsburgh 61-45; Gators advance to fourth-straight Sweet 16

The (1) Florida Gators (34-2) got back to their dominant ways on Saturday afternoon, outclassing the (9) Pittsburgh Panthers (26-10) in the 2014 NCAA Tournament Round of 32 at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. The Gators advanced to their fourth-straight Sweet 16 with a 61-45 victory over the Panthers.

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

It was over when: Florida was already leading by 10 with 90 seconds left to play when senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin attacked the hoop and finished an up-and-under layup to vault the Gators ahead by 12 points. Wilbekin was responsible for 13 of Florida’s 15 points in a span of 6:51 at one point during the second half with the aforementioned layup the last of eight-straight points he scored for UF.

Prominent player: Wilbekin scored a team-high 21 points for the Gators despite struggling throughout almost the entire first half. He posted 16 points in the final 20:01 of the game and was the main reason that Florida was able to pull away for a decisive victory. He was 9-for-15 from the field and also grabbed three boards, dished two assists and swiped a pair of steals.

Significant stretch: Florida pieced together a 7-0 run early in the second half to jump up 10 points after going toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh for nearly the entire first 20 minutes of the game. The Gators never trailed again and maintained their advantage over the duration of the contest, leading by double-digits most of the time.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.

Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida outclasses (9) Pittsburgh 61-45; Gators advance to fourth-straight Sweet 16

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers

Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 12:15 p.m. EDT

TV: CBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 85/190 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (9) PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Jamie Dixon
Record: 33-2 Record: 26-9
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Coast
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Odds: Florida -5.5 | O/U: 124

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 7-0 record with that seed and 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 Panthers earned the right to play in the Round of 32 by defeating (8) Colorado 77-48 in the Round of 64 on Thursday.
» Florida has played 55 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 39-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 43 of those 55 games under Donovan, going 32-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 9-4 in Round of 32 games and has now been knocked out in its second NCAA Tournament game since 2005. Florida has advanced to play two games in the tournament in 14 of its 19 appearances. 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 2-4 all-time against Pittsburgh, but the Gators and Panthers have never squared off since Donovan took over the former team.
» UF enters Saturday’s third-round game on a program-record 27-game winning streak with victories in 32 of its last 33 games.
» The Gators are 84-9 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 6-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 23-5 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 three more games and advancing to the Final Four.

Continue Reading » Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (9) Pittsburgh Panthers

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Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

The (1) Florida Gators (33-2) pulled away in the second half to escape the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) with a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the tough win.

WHAT WAS THAT?

For a team that has put together its share of blowouts this season, Florida being tied at 39 with Albany in the second half and only defeating a 15-loss team out of the America East by 12 points was understandably deflating. So one cannot blame the Gators for feeling a bit down in the locker room after the game, nor Donovan for being frustrated with UF’s overall performance.

“I’m a little bit baffled with our team right now,” he told the TBS sideline reporter before leaving the court for his post-game press conference.

“I was a little bit disappointed with our defense in the first half. I didn’t think we defended like we normally did,” he said in the media availability. “I thought in the second half we did a much, much better job in that area.”

The Great Danes hit 10 of their first 15 shots but only connected on nine of their last 31 attempts from the field. Nevertheless, the Gators only outscored the underdogs by six points in each half.

Many will chalk up Florida’s struggles to not being “up for the game,” thinking it could handle a 16-seed while playing a second-round game just over 100 miles from its home court. Donovan hopes that is not the case.

Continue Reading » Florida-Albany post-game: Gators escape, breathe

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida struggles but edges (16) Albany in 2014 NCAA Tournament

Getting more than they bargained for with the (16) Albany Great Danes (19-15) the overall top seed (1) Florida Gators (33-2) eventually led by just six at the break but pulled away in the second half for a 67-55 victory in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL.

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

It was over when: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained a three-pointer from the corner with just over two minutes remaining in the game to push Florida ahead by 12. He was inconsistent throughout most of the contest, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting (1-of-4 from deep) with four assists, three rebounds and no turnovers.

Prominent players: Senior center Patric Young achieved his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 boards but saw his flow interrupted in the second half when he picked up a third foul. Senior forward Casey Prather not just scored consistently (team-high 16 points) but also registered three blocks and two steals in the game and had one of the best defensive performances of the day.

Bountiful bench: Despite being listed as questionable entering the game, freshman PG Kasey Hill (turf toe) finished with 10 points on the afternoon. He scored eight in the second half when the Gators broke away from the Great Danes and also picked up two steals, an assist and a board. It was Hill’s first double-digit scoring game since Nov. 16, 2013 when he started for UF at home against Arkansas Little-Rock. Joining him as a big-time contributor was redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith, who was one of two Florida players with a team-high 16 points, most of which came in the first half.

Significant stretch: Tied at 39, UF pieced together a 12-2 run – with four-straight points and a steal from Hill and a big three by sophomore guard Michael Frazier – to get a bit of breathing room and lead Albany by 10 midway through the second half. The Gators eventually increased their advantage to 12 points, which was also their winning margin.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida struggles but edges (16) Albany in 2014 NCAA Tournament

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Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Orlando, FL: (1) Florida Gators vs. (16) Albany Great Danes

Location: Amway Center – Orlando, FL [Capacity: 20,000]
Time: 4:10 p.m. EDT (30 minutes after the conclusion of Colorado-Pittsburgh)

TV: TBS (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Kristine Leahy)
SiriusXM: 93/192 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Florida Gators tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (16) ALBANY GREAT DANES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Will Brown
Record: 32-2 Record: 19-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: America East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -22 | O/U: 121.5

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history (2007), holding a 6-0 record and national title the previous time it held this ranking entering the tournament.
» No. 1 seeds are 116-0 against No. 16 seeds since 1989. Only 14 of those games have been decided with final margins of victory in single digits.
» 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 Great Danes earned the right to play in the Round of 64 after defeating Mount St. Mary’s 71-64 in first game of the First Four on Tuesday.
» Florida has played 54 games in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 38-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 42 of those 54 games under Donovan, going 31-11 in those contests over 14 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 14-5 in Round of 64 games and has not been knocked out in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2010. 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 1-0 all-time against Albany, winning 83-64 in Gainesville, FL on Nov. 10, 2005 in the lone meeting between the programs. The Gators have never lost to an AEC team (6-0, 5-0 under Donovan).
» UF enters Thursday’s second-round game on a program-record 26-game winning streak with victories in 31 of its last 32 games.
» The Gators are 83-9 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 5-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» The Gators are 22-5 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 four games and advancing to the Final Four.

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Florida PG Kasey Hill (turf toe) questionable for 2014 NCAA Tournament opener

Relatively injury-free for most of the season, save for some bumps and bruises, the No. 1 Florida Gators (32-2) will enter the 2014 NCAA Tournament dealing with an unexpected ailment as freshman point guard Kasey Hill has been deemed questionable for UF’s second-round game on Thursday with turf toe.

According to the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson, Hill was examined on Wednesday when Florida arrived at the Amyway Center in Orlando, FL ahead of its showdown against the 16-seed Albany Great Danes (19-14) on Thursday afternoon.

He will be re-evaluated during the Gators’ Thursday morning shoot-around, according to Thompson, with his status likely to be determined at that time.

Turf toe marks the third injury Hill has suffered this season.

After beginning the campaign as Florida’s starting point guard for four games while senior Scottie Wilbekin served a five-game suspension, Hill missed four contests with a high-ankle sprain suffered on Nov. 18, 2013 against Southern.

He was absent for three more games in February while dealing with a groin injury but has played his best ball over the Gators’ last six contests, averaging 5.0 points, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 19.3 minutes per game during that span.

Though Hill spells Wilbekin as Florida’s primary reserve point guard, he also spends time on the court alongside UF’s floor general. He has proven to be a spark off the bench for UF and a capable (albeit inconsistent) playmaker in his first year of college ball.

The Gators may choose to rest Hill even if he is cleared to play on Thursday as sophomore guard Michael Frazier II would be more than capable of filling in temporarily to handle the ball against the Great Danes.

It is more important for Florida to have Hill healthy for the duration of the tournament than against Albany on Thursday at 4:10 p.m.

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Donovan talks one-seed, free throws, distractions

Head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media on Monday, less than a day after his Florida Gators (32-2) were rewarded for their tremendous season up to this point with the No. 1 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Florida will play its first game in second-round action on Thursday at 4:10 p.m. on TBS from the Amway Center in Orlando, FL against a 16-seed play-in team. Albany and Mount Saint Marys square off on Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. in Dayton, OH in a First Four game that will air live nationally on truTV.

OVERALL NO. 1 FOR THE SECOND TIME

Most statistics about the 2013 Florida football team ended in a negative fashion with “since 1979;” Gators basketball is experiencing the opposite phenomenon with all of its positive records concluding with “since 2007.” The latest has to do with UF earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time…since 2007, which is also the last year Florida swept the Southeastern Conference Championships, advanced to the Final Four and won a national title.

“That’s probably a reflection of what’s happened from November all the way to here in March,” said Donovan about the seed. “Once the brackets are out and you’re playing, seedings and things like that, players aren’t thinking about that. They’re thinking about playing and competing and playing to the best of their ability.”

The difference between 2007 and 2014 is that the Gators knew their first opponent seven years ago, when they faced Jackson State. This time, Florida has to deal with the expanded 68-team field and will not learn about the victor of the play-in game set to be held on Tuesday night.

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