Final Four Fastbreak: (7) UConn Huskies end (1) Florida Gators magical season with thud

The historic season put together by the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) ended with a thud on Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as the (7) UConn Huskies (31-8) responded from early adversity to dominate the No. 1 overall seed for the majority of the contest and eliminate Florida in the Final Four round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a stunning 63-53 victory.

The Gators saw their 30-game winning streak, the 10th longest in college basketball history, snapped as they ended their season short of a national title for the seventh-straight season. It was head coach Billy Donovan‘s first ever loss in the semifinal round.

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

It was over when: A personal 6-2 run by senior center Patric Young got Florida within six points with four minutes to play, but two free throws made by Shabazz Napier put UConn back up eight and kick-started an 8-2 run that gave it a 12-point lead with 1:46 to play. It was never close again.

Prominent players: Young came up big for the Gators, especially in the second half, and finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. For the Huskies, DeAndre Daniels was outstanding, hitting 9-of-14 attempts for a game-high 20 points with a game-high 10 boards as well. Young added five rebounds and a block to his line.

Disappearing act: Known as Florida’s closer most of the season, senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was a non-factor – and at times a detriment – for the Gators on Saturday. He went 2-for-9 from the field, missed three attempts from beyond the arc, only dished one assist, gave up three turnovers and committed four fouls. It was his worst performance of the season and just the second time this year he scored fewer than seven points in a game.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Final Four Fastbreak: (7) UConn Huskies end (1) Florida Gators magical season with thud

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Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

Location: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX [Capacity: 77,122]
Time: 6:09 p.m. EDT

National TV: TBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr, Tracy Wolfson)
Florida-centric TV: TNT (David Steele, Mark Wise, James Bates) [Read More]

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Final Four Tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (7) CONNECTICUT HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 36-2 Record: 30-8
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U: 127

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 10-0 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 Huskies earned the right to play in the Final Four by defeating (4) Michigan State 60-54 in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
» Florida has played 58 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 42-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 46 of those 58 games under Donovan, going 35-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 3-1 in Final Four games all-time, 3-0 under Donovan with national title game appearances in 2000, 2006-07. The Gators, which are making their first appearance in the Final Four since 2007, have not played for the national championship since.
» Florida is 1-1 all-time against UConn, 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament (1994) and 0-1 under Donovan. The Gators fell to the Huskies 65-64 earlier this season, dropping a road contest in Stoors, CT on Dec. 2, 2013.
» UF has not lost since that defeat and enters Saturday’s Final Four on a program-record 30-game winning streak with victories in 35 of its last 36 games.
» Florida is the fourth team since 1979 to enter the Final Four with a win streak of 30+ games. None of the previous three teams went on to win the national title (via ESPN).
» UConn could become just the eighth team to beat the No. 1 overall seed in the Final Four. Five of the previous seven teams to accomplish that feat went on to win the national championship (via ESPN).
» UF is the third team in NCAA Tournament history to enter the Final Four with four tournament wins by double figures while simultaneously holding its opponents under 70 points per game.
» The Gators are 86-9 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.
» The Gators are 9-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» Florida is 25-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» The Gators won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and set a school record for most wins in a single season by defeating Dayton in the Elite Eight and advancing to the Final Four (36).

Continue Reading » Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

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Donovan, Wilbekin, Ollie talk Final Four, provide perspectives on college basketball

(1) Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin met with the media on Thursday the day after teams arrived in Arlington, TX and started the lead up to the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Joining Donovan on the podium was (7) Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie. All three discussed their seasons to this point, college basketball in general and Saturday’s semifinal game, which is set for 6:09 p.m. and scheduled to air live on TBS and TNT.

IT’S ALL ABOUT DEPTH, BABY

The Gators and Huskies will enter AT&T Stadium on Saturday with arguably the two deepest teams in the remaining field of four, but it is a different kind of depth that both coaches were asked about on Thursday.

Though the space behind the hoop is a bit open in every arena, fans create a bit of a background image that shooters are used to when judging the distance of the basket and how hard they need to shoot the ball. Playing in a huge stadium like the one in Arlington takes away the fan-made background and replaces it with open space that players have to adjust to.

Neither Donovan nor Ollie were concerned much with the scenario even though in Florida’s case it appeared to be a major issue just last season when UF went 6-for-25 from beyond the arc in two games at then-Cowboys Stadium.

Continue Reading » Donovan, Wilbekin, Ollie talk Final Four, provide perspectives on college basketball

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Final Four: (1) Florida Gators get chance for revenge in rematch against (7) UConn Huskies

The only two teams to defeat the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) this season will join them in the Final Four as the (2) Wisconsin Badgers (30-7) advanced Saturday night and the (7) Connecticut Huskies (30-8) earned a seat at the table Sunday afternoon.

Florida will get a chance to avenge at least one of its two losses on Saturday at At&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as it is set to take on UConn at 6:09 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to championship game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Forty minutes after the game, Wisconsin and the (8) Kentucky Wildcats (28-10) – which UF has beat three times already this season – will square off for the other spot in the title game.

The Huskies and Gators fought down to the wire in their regular-season match-up on Dec. 2, 2013 with UConn taking down Florida 65-64 at home in Stoors, CT by outscoring UF 6-2 over the final 34 seconds with point guard Shabazz Napier draining a second-chance game-winner at the buzzer.

The shot may never have happened had UF senior PG Scottie Wilbekin, who injured his ankle with 3:01 to play and never returned, been on the court for the last possession. The team was also without its back-up floor general, freshman Kasey Hill, who missed the game with an ankle injury of his own.

Continue Reading » Final Four: (1) Florida Gators get chance for revenge in rematch against (7) UConn Huskies

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12/2: Florida at UConn post-game report

The No. 12/14 UConn Huskies (8-0) handed the No. 15/12 Florida Gators (6-2) a tough defeat on Monday night at the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT, winning 65-64 on a buzzer-beater that head coach Billy Donovan respectfully called “luck” and a “fluke” after the game. Donovan provided his perspective on the loss following the contest.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» UConn knotted up the all-time series between the two teams at 1-1.
» Florida fell to 4-4 against top 25-ranked opponents dating back to last season with all four losses coming away from its home court.
» The Gators have lost six-straight and are 1-13 overall in their last 14 road games against ranked opponents. The Huskies improved to 11-1 in their last 12 games against ranked opponents outside their conference.
» UF lost for just the ninth time since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in the game (60-9).
» The Gators are now 59-78 under Donovan in games decided by five points or less.
» Florida will host UConn next season in the second half of the home-and-home series.

END-OF-GAME SEQUENCE

Down one with 17.7 seconds left, UConn put the ball in the hands of point guard Shabazz Napier, who to that point had scored 24 of his team’s 63 points on the evening. After fighting out of a trap beyond the three-point line, Napier dribbled into the lane and missed a wild jump shot. Luckily for the Huskies, forward Deandre Daniels knocked back the loose ball to Napier, who shot a second jumper with 0.3 seconds left on the clock that swished as the buzzer sounded.

“We actually did a really good job,” said Donovan about Florida’s defense on the final possession. “We made the decision that we were going to trap him – and we did trap him – we got him to take a very, very difficult off-balance shot.

“The guy that won the game for them was DeAndre Daniels. He made an unbelievable tip-out off-balance which kept the ball alive. What we did was we had guys that were on Napier kind of ran to the rim to go defensive rebound, which left space for Napier. We needed to keep a guy there and we didn’t. But his shot really was luck in the fact that the ball was tipped to him. If it’s tipped anywhere else [the game’s over].”

He later added: “The last play was really a fluke play. I don’t think DeAndre Daniels even knew…he just tipped the ball back because he was off-balance…but it was a great play by him to at least keep the possession alive.”

The more egregious mistake, as Donovan also points out, is the fact that the Gators allowed the hosts to have three separate chances to tie the game on UConn’s second-to-last possession. The Huskies grabbed two offensive rebounds off a pair missed three pointers, and Napier finally drained one on his team’s third attempt. Napier also drew a phantom foul on the make, which Donovan was none too happy about, and wound up completing a four-point play to give his team the lead.

Continue Reading » 12/2: Florida at UConn post-game report

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Fastbreak: UConn stuns Florida at the buzzer

The No. 12/14 UConn Huskies (8-0) remained undefeated by taking down the No. 15/12 Florida Gators (6-2) in a heart-stopping, nail-biting, buzzer-beating finish on Monday evening at the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, CT.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the Gators’ 65-64 loss with The Fastbreak.

It was over when: UConn point guard Shabazz Napier, who scored 26 of his team’s 65 points, missed a jumper with two seconds left but got his own rebound off a deflection and drained a 15-footer at the buzzer to send the Huskies to victory.

Prominent players: Napier scored a game-high 26 points including six in the final 34 seconds. He tied the game with a three-pointer but was fouled by Florida redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith and hit the ensuing free throw to put his team ahead by one. The Gators re-took the lead on a layup by sophomore guard Michael Fraizer II, but Napier stood poised and won the game for his team a few seconds later. He hit 5-of-8 threes on the evening and all three of his free throws while filling out the box score with four rebounds, three steals and two assists.

For Florida, senior center Patric Young came through in the clutch by scoring seven-straight points late in the second half to push the Gators ahead 62-59 with 1:18 remaining. He dominated the end of the game and finished 6-of-10 from the field and 5-of-7 from the line with a team-high seven boards

Important injury: Florida played last three minutes of Monday night’s contest without senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who rolled his ankle after coming down on a UConn player’s foot, immediately went the locker room and was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game. Wilbekin scored 15 points on the evening and also picked up two dimes, three boards and a couple swipes.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak after the, well, break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: UConn stuns Florida at the buzzer

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Gameday: No. 15 Florida Gators at No. 12 UConn

Location: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion – Storrs, CT [Capacity: 10,167]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, Seth Greenberg, Andy Katz)
SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(15) FLORIDA GATORS (12) UCONN HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 6-1 Record: 7-0
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +4 | O/U 130.5

PRE-GAME READING MATERIAL

» Notebook: Donovan prepares Florida for showdown with UConn
» Story: Gators up to No. 12/15 in new top 25 polls

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is 1-0 all-time against UConn as the Gators defeated the Huskies 69-60 in overtime during the Sweet 16 round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament. UF would advance to its first-ever Final Four that postseason.
» The Gators are 4-3 against top-25 ranked opponents dating back to last season with all three losses coming away from their home court.
» Florida has lost five-straight and is 1-12 overall in its last 13 road games against ranked opponents. UConn, on the other hand, is 10-1 in its last 11 games against ranked opponents outside of its conference.
» The Gators are 60-8 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF’s defense has started off allowing just 60.3 points per game through seven contests, making it the stingiest in the SEC; no opponent has scored more than 69.
» Florida also sports the SEC’s best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and second-best turnover margin (+4.1 per game).
» UF has already used five different starting lineups through seven games. Only two players – seniors forward Casey Prather and center Patric Young – have started every contest thus far.
» Donovan is looking for his 16th consecutive 20-win season. Florida has him ranked sixth all-time in that category behind only Dean Smith, Lute Olson, Mike Krzyzewski, Tubby Smith and Jim Boeheim.

Read the rest of the Florida-UConn gameday preview…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 15 Florida Gators at No. 12 UConn

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