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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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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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.


Continue Reading » Ex-Gators praise (1) Florida after Pittsburgh win

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SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

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3/31: Florida vs. Michigan post-game report

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-8) collapsed in their most important game of the season on Sunday as they got routed 79-59 by the four-seed Michigan Wolverines (30-7) in the Elite Eight of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired in their failed Final Four bid.

OPENING STATEMENT

“They capitalized on our turnovers. I thought we dug ourselves a hole very early in the game. … I think in the first half we missed 11 shots within three feet of the basket. They got off to a hot start and us not being able to manufacture enough points I thought really, really dug us a hole. I thought we got the ball where we wanted to go. … But I thought our guys – to start the second half came out – we battled, we fought, but we hurt ourselves with the way we played. … I just didn’t think that we did enough things there on both ends of the floor. I thought our defense in the second half was a little bit more characteristic of the way we’ve played this year. I thought our offense in a lot of ways, because we had some very, very, I thought, good quality looks deflated us around the basket. Especially against a team that’s not a great shot blocking team.”

THIRD TIME IS NOT A CHARM

Florida became the first team in NCAA Tournament history (since the field expanded to 64 teams) to lose three-straight times in the Elite Eight. Yet while the Gators did drop the game, they did not even have the opportunity to choke it away like the previous two years because UF never led at any point in the game. In fact, once Michigan opened the contest on a 13-0 run, Florida never trailed by fewer than 11 points over the duration of the contest. It is for that reason why Donovan was not emotional after the game.

“This is a totally different feel than the last two. The last two to me we gave ourselves every opportunity to win,” he explained.

“The Butler game was an overtime game, the Louisville game was a two point game. This one we didn’t play well enough or deserve to win the game. Michigan deserved this game. They played better than us. They performed better. They did things that were necessary to beat us. The other two games I was heartbroken for our team because we were really, really close. We weren’t that close here [Sunday].”

Asked how, as a coach, it felt to lose in three-straight Elite Eights and not advance to the Final Four, Donovan brushed off those concerns. “Well, it’s not really about me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be there as a player and several times as a coach,” he said. “I feel more upset for [Kenny] Boynton, [Mike] Rosario and [Erik] Murphy, [guys] who don’t get a chance and have come so close. I’ve experienced the Final Four enough. I want our program to continue to experience it and our players.”

To their credit, the players also took the loss relatively well all things considering. Boynton kept his chin up about the situation, expressing his regrets but also his appreciation for what his teammates and coach have done for him.

Continue Reading » 3/31: Florida vs. Michigan post-game report

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3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

The three-seed Florida Gators (29-7) advanced to the Elite Eight for the third-straight year and seventh time in team history with a 62-50 take down of the 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-11) in 2013 NCAA Tournament action at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and a number of his players met with the media to discuss what transpired on Friday in the Sweet 16.

UPCOMING OPPONENT

The four-seed Michigan Wolverines (29-7) stunned one-seed Kansas in the first game from Arlington on Friday and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994. The Wolverines came from behind to force overtime and eventually took down their foes 87-85 behind 23 points from Trey Burke (all of which came in the second half and overtime). Florida holds a 1-1 record all-time against Michigan, pulling off a 79-63 win in a neutral site game on Dec. 27, 1998. (The teams met previously on March 19, 1988 – a game UF lost 108-85 at a neutral site – but the victory was vacated by the NCAA.)

Sunday’s showdown will commence at 2:20 p.m. (EDT) and air live on CBS. Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr (color commentator) and Craig Sager (sideline reporter) will be on the call for the contest.

DIGGING IN AND OUT OF AN EARLY HOLE

Florida opened Friday’s game as cold as a team could be shooting-wise, hitting just four of its first 20 shots while watching FGCU explode out to an early 15-4 lead mostly due to a pair of wide-open three pointers. The Gators not only missed open jumpers but also saw layups roll around the rim without going into the net, an incredibly frustrating situation considering UF was executing its game plan in the early going.

“I felt like we really got a lot of good looks. Obviously the focus was to go down inside to [Erik] Murphy and Patric Young. Those guys had really good looks inside. I thought from the perimeter, I think Mike [Rosario] started off 0-for-5. He had pretty good looks. We couldn’t get anything to fall for us,” Donovan said.

There was no panic from Florida, however. Donovan called a timeout, the Gators composed themselves and got right back in the game in a nick of time.

“I don’t think we panicked at all as a team. We’ve been there before. The main thing with us was starting to get defensive stops. We put together a couple defensive stops. Offense, it wasn’t our best day, but it came along,” senior guard Kenny Boynton said.

Added junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin: “We had a game to win. We had everybody encouraging each other, keeping each other’s head in the right place. When you have that, you’re not going to get that frustrated.”

“We were too determined to win this game so we just fought through, stayed together and picked it up as a whole,” Young concurred. “We had to fight through human nature in the sense of feeling sorry for ourselves that we were down. We really had to fight through. It’s easy to lay down and give up, but we were able to fight as a whole through adversity and stay together.”

Read the rest of the Florida-FGCU post-game (including videos)…
Continue Reading » 3/29: Florida vs. FGCU post-game; Gators set to face Michigan in Elite Eight + videos

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