2015 SEC Tournament Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away from Florida 64-49

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-17) dropped its third game to the (1) Kentucky Wildcats (32-0) this season, this time in the quarterfinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

With the loss, Florida finished below .500 entering the non-conference postseason for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s second season with the program in 1997-98. The Gators also lost to their longtime-rival Wildcats thrice in a single season for the fifth time (1995-96, 2002, 2012).

OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: A 7-0 run, including four free throws, pushed Kentucky ahead by 14 with under five minutes to play. Donovan got a bench warning for complaining about the uneven officiating, and Florida was unable to fight back from a devastating foul disparity built throughout the contest. UK ended the contest with a 14-2 stretch as UF went 5:09 without a field goal.

“I thought we had some moments. I thought we played very, very well. Certainly we got off to a good start, which was positive. … Statistically, if you look at the game, everything was pretty even,” Donovan said. “The difference in the game was the free throw line. Twenty-three attempts to our five was a huge factor in the game. … If you take away the free throw line, it’s pretty consistent all the way through. Just about every stat’s pretty even. But the one huge drastic difference was the free throw line and that was really, ultimately, the margin in the game.”

Significant stretch: Two Florida turnovers helped fuel a 9-0 run for Kentucky, which gave the Cats an 11-point lead with 14 minutes to play. UF redshirt senior center Jon Horford responded with five straight points to cut his team’s deficit to six, but his the Gators never got within fewer than five over the duration of the contest.

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2015 SEC Tournament Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats – Third time a charm?

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

TV: SEC Network (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 16-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 31-0 (18-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +13.5

THIRD TIME MAY NOT BE A CHARM FOR FLORIDA

Florida has already dropped two games to Kentucky this season – both by significant margins – though that is not to say the Gators were not competitive in each contest.

In a seven-point home loss to UK, UF led for nearly the entire first half and were up two on the nation’s top team with 12:17 left in the game. The contest remained close with the Wildcats holding just a two-point lead with 1:05 to play. From there, the visitors outscored the hosts 7-2 with all seven points coming at the line.

Kentucky’s win in Rupp Arena was more decisive. Florida trailed by just three with 10:30 to play, but UK outscored UF 23-9 over the remainder of the contest as the Gators made just three field goals in that span.

In other words, Florida knows exactly what it is going up against on Friday.

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SEC Tournament Fastbreak: (8) Florida Gators take down (9) Alabama 69-61 in opening game

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-16) earned a decisive 69-61 victory over the (9) Alabama Crimson Tide (18-14) on Thursday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan improved to 10-0 all-time against former Gators assistant and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant as UF ensured itself a difficult second-round match-up against (1) Kentucky.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: With Florida’s 11-point lead cut to seven, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill attempted a would-have-been-clutch steal, though Alabama corralled the loose ball and Rodney Cooper drove it to the hoop. Gators redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy stepped in Cooper’s way and drew the offensive foul, sending the Tide’s leading scorer to the bench with five on the afternoon and three minutes left in the game. Redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith drained a three on the ensuing possession, pushing UF’s lead back to 10.

Significant stretch: Finney-Smith and freshman F Devin Robinson drained back-to-back threes, negating an Alabama stretch and giving the Gators a nine-point lead at 49-40 with 12 minutes left. UF would extend that advantage to a game-high 11 points just minutes later. Robinson scored 10 points in the contest, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from the charity stripe.

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2015 SEC Tournament: Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – Now or never

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (9) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 15-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 18-13 (8-10 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -4

IT’S NOW OR NEVER FOR THE GATORS

Despite the team’s dismal campaign, Donovan’s worst since his second season at Florida (1997-98) … despite the Gators averaging their fewest points per game (64.0) since 1950-51 … despite UF being so inefficient from the foul line that the term “free throw” has become ironic (.632 is its worst mark since 1951-52) … despite all of that, Florida enters the SEC Tournament on Monday on equal footing with the rest of the league.

It will likely take at least one win – if not two – to give the Gators a chance at earning an NIT berth. It will assuredly require winning the tournament outright for Florida to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth-straight year. And if you ask Donovan, this particular UF squad is as ready as it will ever be for this test.

“Hopefully, they’re excited to play. You’re getting a chance to go somewhere and play at a neutral site. It’s an opportunity to play again. I think our guys, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten better as a team,” he said on Tuesday.

“Better” is a relative term when it comes to these Gators. Injuries and suspensions have limited how much Florida has been able to develop as a complete unit this season, but for team with known talent deficiencies (according to Donovan), the Gators’ schedule – one of the toughest in the nation – did not do it any favors either.

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Two Florida Gators named to 2015 All-SEC teams

Two Florida Gators basketball players were voted onto the 2015 All-SEC teams on Tuesday, as chosen by the league’s 14 coaches.

Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith was named a second-team All-SEC selection, while F Devin Robinson was voted onto the SEC All-Freshman team.

Finney-Smith finished the regular season as Florida’s top scorer (13.1 points per game), best rebounder (6.0 boards per game) and most-efficient shooter (.481 from the field, .433 beyond the arc). Robinson averaged 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19.1 points per game but suffered from inefficiencies both overall (.401) and beyond the arc (.250).

Kentucky led the way with five selections (two on the first team), while LSU also picked up two nods. Kentucky led the way with four All-SEC selections (two first team, two second team), four SEC All-Freshman picks, and an SEC All-Defensive team player. The Wildcats also picked up SEC Coach of the Year (John Calipari), SEC Freshman of the Year (Karl-Anthony Towns), SEC Sixth-Man of the Year (Devin Booker) and SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Willie Cauley-Stein) honors.

The Gators are the No. 8 overall seed in the 2015 SEC Tournament and will play in their first game on Thursday against No. 9-seed Alabama.

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Florida Gators to open 2015 SEC Basketball Tournament vs. Alabama Crimson Tide + Bracket

Eight-seed Florida Gators men’s basketball (15-16, 8-10 SEC) will take on the nine-seed Alabama Crimson Tide (18-13, 8-10 SEC) in the second round of the 2015 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 12 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The contest, set to tip off at 1 p.m. and air live on the SEC Network, will be the second meeting between the programs this season as the Gators previously defeated the Tide 52-50 on Jan. 27 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan is 22-5 against Alabama with victories in 10-straight meetings and wins in 12 of the last 13 showdowns between the teams. Donovan is also 9-0 all-time against Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, a former Gators assistant.

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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

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Florida volleyball rolling as it enters Sweet 16

By Eden Otero – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball (27-3, 18-0 SEC) has rolled through the 2014 season and found plenty of success, including the 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship. As Florida approaches the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and a showdown with the No. 9 Illinois Illini (26-7) on Friday, let’s take a look back at the ups and downs of Gators volleyball this season.

Non-conference play: Head coach Mary Wise set up a purposely tough non-conference schedule to her team prepare for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament. Before league play began, four of the nine opponents the Gators faced were top-20 teams, including USC, San Diego, Texas and Florida State. UF swept both USC and San Diego but lost in five and four sets, respectively, to Florida State and Texas. Wise said that Florida ultimately benefited from the tough slate as the players were given the chance to learn from their mistakes, which hopefully would not be repeated when in the tournament.

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