Florida Gators 67 – Richmond Spiders 58: Gators Win Final Non-Conference Game

With one final game before conference play begins, Florida defeated Richmond 67-58 on Saturday. The Gators improved to 11-2 and will head into SEC play in the top 13 of both major polls.

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida Gators

The Spiders kept the game closer throughout than the Gators would have liked, and even led with less than six minutes to play. But when it mattered, Florida stepped up on both offense and defense. For nearly four full minutes near the end of the game, the Gators went on a 12-0 run, taking a lead they wouldn’t give up. Richmond was able to score eight points in the final 1:06, but it wasn’t enough and Florida would prevail.

The Gators were led by sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who scored 18 points. He went 3-for-7 from behind the arc with all three makes coming in the second half. He was joined in the double-digit scoring column by senior forward/center Patric Young (15), senior forward Casey Prather (12), and senior guard Scottie Wilbekin (10). Prather has scored in double digits in every single Gators’ game this season.

Head coach Billy Donovan appears to have his lineup set for hard-fought games. Senior forward Will Yeguete was the only starter to not log at least 20 minutes, but did play 18. Coming off of the bench, sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith played 28 minutes and freshman guard Kasey Hill was on the court for 21. Sophomore guard/forward DeVon Walker was the only other Florida player to see the court. He logged nine minutes. The rotation could change slightly when freshman forward Chris Walker finally makes his debut, but, for the most part, the Gators appear to be set assuming everyone stays healthy.

The Gators’ begin SEC play on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 when South Carolina comes to Gainesville.

Florida Gators 76 – Savannah State Tigers 34: Patric Young Scores 1,000th Career Point in Blowout

Florida ended 2013 on a high note, defeating Savannah State 76-34 on Sunday in Gainesville. The Gators jumped out to a 34-11 halftime lead and never took their foot off of the gas. The 42-point win is by far the largest victory margin of the season for Florida.

Patric Young, Florida Gators

The spotlight was planted firmly on senior forward/center Patric Young. Young became the 50th Florida men’s basketball player to score 1,000 career points. He would finish the game with a team-high 15 points and add six rebounds.

“I have just been very fortunate to be on winning teams and just to be here under Coach [Billy] Donovan, one of the guys who is going to help develop his players. I can praise him for that. I couldn’t walk and chew gum when I first got here. I can do a few more things now. I just want to thank him for believing in me and helping me get better,” said Young.

After scoring the basket that put him over 1,000 points, Young would score again, ending the game with 1,003 career points. That moved him to 49th-place on the all-time list. With the majority of the season remaining, Young will have plenty of opportunities to rise even higher in the Florida history books.

Three other players joined Young in the double-digit scoring club in the win. Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II had 11 points and senior forward Casey Prather and senior guard Scottie Wilbekin both had 10. Sophomore foward Dorian Finney-Smith and sophomore guard/forward DeVon Walker tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.

The Gators led the Tigers in every major statistically category, but the most telling was field goal percentage. Florida shot 49.0% from the field while holding Savannah State to 24.5% shooting. Only two players on the Tigers’ entire roster managed to make at least half of their shots and eight players that attempted field goals didn’t connect on a single one.

At 10-2, the Gators have won four in a row heading into 2014. That momentum should serve them well in their final non-conference game of the regular season on Saturday, January 4, 2014 against Richmond. Following that, the Gators host South Carolina on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 to kick off their SEC schedule.

Florida Gators 66 – Fresno State Bulldogs 49: Gators Head to Break 9-2

The Florida Gators’ men’s basketball team added another victory before heading into the holiday break. On Saturday, the Gators defeated Fresno State 66-49 to improve to 9-2. It was Florida’s third-straight victory and final game before an eight-day break.

Casey Prather, Florida Gators

Defense was the story in the Gators’ victory, although that could be said of both games that were part of the Orange Bowl Basketball classic. Of the four teams that competed, not one shot better than 42 percent and many of the participants talked of extremely unforgiving rims.

Even if the rims were hard, Florida put forth one of its best defensive performances of the season. The Gators held the Bulldogs to only 32 percent shooting, which was the best output for the season for Florida.

“This was probably our best game defensively from start to finish,” said Florida head coach Billy Donovan.

Senior forward Casey Prather once again led the Gators in scoring with 16 points. Prather shot 8-for-11 from the field.

The biggest advantage the Gators held came in rebounds. Florida finished with a 47-24 victory in that aspect of the game. The Gators were led by senior forward Will Yeguete who had 10 boards.

Freshman guard Kasey Hill was on the court for only 15 minutes, but did connect on both of his shots from the field. Hill finished with seven points, but three turnovers to only one assist.

The Gators are back in action at home on December 29 against Savannah State. They follow that up with another home again on January 4 against Richmond before the begin SEC play.

Alex Murphy to Transfer from Duke to Florida; Erik Murphy’s Brother to Play for Gators

While the football program is routinely gutted by the transfer process, head men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to convince those not happy with their current situations to come play for the Florida Gators. The latest to announce his intentions to transfer to Florida is forward Alex Murphy, younger brother of former Gators forward Erik Murphy.

Alex Murphy, Florida Gators

The younger Murphy was one of the nation’s better prospects coming out of high school. He was a four-star recruit across the four major services – 247, ESPN, Rivals, and Scout – and fell between No. 36 and No. 45 in overall rankings. Murphy committed to the Duke Blue Devils over Florida and redshirted his first season, 2011-12. Over the next season and a half, Murphy never became a consistent contributor for the Blue Devils, averaging 6.3 minutes in 2012-13 and 6.3 this season. Murphy only appeared in five of Duke’s 10 games this season.

When it became evident Murphy would look to pursue his college basketball career elsewhere, Florida became the logical choice. His No. 2 during the recruiting process, Murphy had come to know the Gators through both his brother and Donovan. There was a connection that benefitted Florida greatly when Murphy decided Duke was no longer for him.

Because of the timing of his transfer, Murphy will be eligible to play for the Gators one year from now, or about halfway through the 2014-15 season. He could become a big part of the rotation immediately as Florida loses Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young after this season. With Damontre Harris not an option and soon-to-be-playing freshman Chris Walker likely a one-and-done (or half-and-done to be accurate), the Gators need bigs. While Murphy plays a similar style of basketball as that of his older brother, he still has size and Florida will need it.

Florida Gators 77 – Memphis Tigers 75: Gators Winning Close Games This Time Around

One season ago, the Florida Gators turned in a 0-6 record in games decided by less than 10 points. With a 77-75 victory over the Memphis Tigers on Tuesday night, the Gators improved to 4-2 this season alone in such games.

Casey Prather, Florida Gators

While not technically a road game, Florida traveled to New York, NY to face Memphis in the Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden. It was the Gators third-straight game against a ranked opponent and second-consecutive victory. Florida improved to 2-2 this season against ranked opponents. As the polls stand today, the Gators won’t face another ranked opponent until February 4, 2014 when they host the Missouri Tigers.

The player of the game was a no-brainer as the honor goes to senior forward Casey Prather. Prather shot 8-of-13 from the field, a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, and led all scorers with 22 points. He put in the final eight points the Gators would score and made four free throws in the final 1:20 to help Florida to the win.

To say Prather has been a surprise this season would be a gross understatement. The senior was expected to see more playing time and showed flashes last season that proved he would be able to answer the call with increased minutes; however, he has performed at a higher level than any would have expected. He leads the team with 18.7 points per game and has already surpassed his points total from last season. Prather was expected to be a contributor, but has surpassed that expectation and has become a vital part of Florida’s success.

Of the three transfers eligible to play for the Gators this season, redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith is the one continuing to make a name for himself. (Of course, Eli Carter is redshirting while injured and Damontre Harris isn’t likely to ever play for the Gators.) In 29.0 minutes per game for Virginia Tech during the 2011-12 season, Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. In almost four less minutes per game for Florida, he is averaging 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. While Carter heals and Harris possibly looks for another opportunity elsewhere, Finney-Smith is taking every possible advantage of the opportunity to play for the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan and is performing admirably.

Freshman guard Kasey Hill isn’t back to his old self just yet, but he was able to play 20 minutes or more for the second-consecutive game since returning from injury. Hill had his ups and downs during the win, struggling early. Sometimes it’s hard to remember he’s just a freshman and still has a lot to learn. Missing four games didn’t help the process, but Hill will continue to grow. The Gators will need him at his best if they hope to make a deep tourney run come March.

Florida improves to 8-2 with the win. With three non-conference games left before SEC play begins, the Gators are in a good position to have a nice streak riding into the new year. Florida will travel to another neutral site on Saturday to face the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL. The 4:30pm game can be seen on Fox Sports Net.

Wisconsin Badgers 59 – Florida Gators 53; Point Guard-Less Gators Come Up Short

This wasn’t a game that the Florida Gators should have won, but it also wasn’t a game where a win was unattainable either. The Gators had plenty of opportunities to seize the game but instead came up short with a 59-53 loss in Madison, WI against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Billy Donovan, Florida Gators

I’m going to try to break down the game in terms of positives and negatives, through the notes I took during the game.

Positives:

• Florida didn’t get killed. Seriously, the team went into a hostile environment without a point guard for much of the game and handled it reasonably well given the circumstances.
• Michael Frazier II put forth a magnificent effort, scoring 20 points on 11 shots with 5 three-pointers, and you could say he’s the primary reason that Florida was able to stay in the game. He also assumed a lot of the ball-handling duties when Kasey Hill was out.
• Casey Prather (12 points) continued to be one of the top offensive options. I’d say that he is easily the most improved player from last year to this year and he’s made tremendous strides over his career.
• The defense wasn’t bad. In fact, it looked better than it did against North Florida.

Negatives:

• Kasey Hill struggled to get into a groove, and most of his layups were strong off the backboard, though he really showed off his athleticism and burst in the open floor. Wisconsin was also playing very loose defense on Hill and he failed to hit a shot that forced the defense to guard him closely. He fouled out in the second half.
• DeVon Walker still isn’t there yet. He showed flashes of athleticism, with a nice block in transition, but turned over the ball too much and looked like a young player who just isn’t ready.
• No back-up point guard: Prather and Walker handled the ball often and accounted for 8 of Florida’s 11 turnovers.
• Depth. Not much of it, whatsoever. That will change though.
• The Gators left way too many Wisconsin shooters open. Perimeter defense has struggled this year without Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton.
• Patric Young is struggling to play good basketball. If the Gators had more depth, this would be a situation where Donovan benches Young in order to motivate him.

Overall, isn’t wasn’t a bad effort for a depleted basketball team against a decent team in Wisconsin. The Florida Gators showed a lot of fight and should improve on the loss. While Scottie Wilbekin remains suspended, key transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Demontre Harris should be available for Florida on Saturday against the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans in the O’Connell Center.

Florida Gators 77 – North Florida Ospreys 69; Gators Unimpressive in 2013-14 Men’s Basketball Opener

It’s that time of the year again. That’s right; Florida Gators Basketball is back, though it didn’t completely begin as planned.

Billy Donovan couldn’t exactly be described as a happy camper after the game:

We are light years away from even being a remotely good defensive team right now and light years away from even being a ranked team.

-Billy Donovan, Florida Gators Head Coach

 

Donovan has plenty to be upset about though. Thought the Florida Gators won 77-69 against a respectable North Florida team, the Ospreys were able to make nine three-pointers against a Gators defense that wasn’t up to par with what we saw last year. 69 points for a team that was probably paid just to play the No. 10 Gators is too many.

Offensively, things weren’t much better for the Gators. Between Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and new transfer Eli Carter, the trio had only 7 points to show for. That’s going to have to change. Surprisingly, walk-on Jacob Kurtz outscored each of those aforementioned scholarship players with 4 points himself.

On the bright side, three Gators shined, perhaps each having his own best game in the orange and blue. Casey Prather played out of his mind, posting a career-high 28 points and accounting for more than a third of the Gators’ points. Kasey Hill was everything he was cut out to be with 15 points, 2 steals, and 4 assists running the Gators’ offense. Also great was the efficient 19 points and 9 rebounds from sophomore sharp-shooter Michael Frazier, who did everything but rain down threes in his return from the mononucleosis that hampered his health over the last month.

Things could get worse for the Gators, however, before they get better. The Gators match up against a Wisconsin team on Tuesday that is definitely better than North Florida. The Gators will miss their defensive-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin, phenom transfer Dorian Finney-Smith, and Damontre Harris for the second-straight game in each’s violation of team rules.

Florida Gators 62 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 50: Gators Put an End to Cinderella’s Dream

With 5:16 left in the first half of Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the Florida Gators and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, the Cinderella Eagles led the Gators 24-14. The nation was on its feet cheering on the little team that could, the first 15-seed to ever reach the Sweet Sixteen. We were all witnessing history and it was getting even better. Those of us in orange and blue land were shell shocked, wondering if this was all really happening. And just like that it wasn’t and order was restored.

Casey Prather - Florida Gators

For the first 15 minutes, the Eagles controlled the game as the Gators seemed to unravel before our very eyes. The next 25 minutes would be an entirely different story. Over the final five minutes of the first half and the entire second half, Florida would outscore Florida Gulf Coast 48-26 on route to a 62-50 Gators’ victory and a third-straight Elite Eight appearance. The Eagles performance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was admirable, but it all came crashing to an end when, for 25 minutes, the Gators showed the world what a talent gap truly is.

From time to time, games like this come down to numbers. Realistically, this one came down to the aforementioned talent, but there were numbers to factor in as well. The Eagles out-shot the Gators to the tune of 45.5% to 38.6%. That was the only statistic Florida Gulf Coast would win that mattered.

20 is another important one. The Eagles connected on 20 of their field-goal attempts. They would also commit 20 turnovers. When those numbers match, there’s a better than good chance you’ll end up on the losing side of things. The Gators’ ratio? 22-to-10.

The Eagles had less rebounds, assists and steals and nearly double the personal fouls. They shot better from behind the three-point line, but also had 12 less attempts at the charity stripe. Those 12 more attempts were critical as the Gators made eight of them. Eight more made free throws and a 12-point margin of victory; there’s a link there.

When all nearly looking lost in the first half, Billy Donovan altered his strategy. He leaned on Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather to provide sparks. Frazier was only on the court for 13 minutes, but had two critical threes as the Gators mounted their comeback. And then there was the dunk pictured above from Prather, who would end with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Sometimes a picture really is worth a million words.

We could beat the Cinderella angle to death, and we probably should with how much we heard about it over the past week, but we won’t. We’ll let Florida Gulf Coast slump off into the night. They should be proud of what they accomplished this season, but David doesn’t always slay Goliath. No, David is going home and Goliath has a date with a pack of nasty wolverines. Florida vs. Michigan, 2:20 PM, Sunday.

Florida Gators 64 – Alabama Crimson Tide 52: Strong Finish Leads To Gators Win

There was a fast start, an almost dramatic slowdown, an impressive comeback and a convincing finish. All of those described the Florida Gators 64-52 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide at one point or another during the game. Florida improved to 23-5 (13-3 SEC) on the season, while Alabama fell to 19-10 (11-5 SEC). With the Gators eyeing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the loss will make it harder for the Tide to even get in.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were down by three at the break and by as much as eight in the second half. It looked like it was gearing up to be quite the let down when Florida kicked it into the next gear and went on a 15-0 run to but Bama away. That run put the Gators up by nine and they would go on to win by 12. It was another double-digit SEC win, but was also a game that easily could have gone the other way. There were definitely times when you could almost feel the game slipping away, but–as opposed to recent losses–the Gators composed themselves, fought back and came away with the victory.

Junior forward Will Yeguete and freshman guard Michael Frazier II returned, but they were limited. The pair gave Florida 17 minutes, no points and just one lone rebound, but their appearances were enough to spark the rest of the team. Senior forward Erik Murphy led the way with 15 points, senior guard Kenny Boynton had 13, junior guard Scottie Wilbekin had 11 and junior forward Casey Prather added 10 off the bench.

One of the more telling stats of the day was the number of times the Gators allowed the Tide to go to the charity stripe. Alabama attempted just 10 free throws during the game as Florida only fouled the Tide nine times. The fact that the Tide could only connect on four of those 10 attempts hurt their chances even more. On the other end, the Gators hit 22 of their 26 attempts. It was an impressive display from Florida and made up for the fact that the Gators were only 2-of-13 from three-point land.

The win pushes Florida into the final week of the season on a high note. The Gators only have two games remaining–March 6 against the Vanderbilt Commodores and March 9 at the Kentucky Wildcats–and will look for big victories in both. Florida hasn’t faced Vandy yet this season, but defeated Kentucky by 17 in the first matchup between the two. With two more convincing wins, the Gators could be looking at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed come tourney selection time.

Florida Gators 69 – Kentucky Wildcats 52: Gators Win Convincingly Over Defending Champs

It’s hard to call the Kentucky Wildcats the defending national champions. They are, but at the same time they aren’t. Most of the roster is now in the NBA and the team we see this season is largely a new one. But there sits John Calipari, coaching a program that hoisted the trophy just one season ago. Commanding the other team is one Billy Donovan, masterfully leading the Florida Gators to a 69-52 win over the defending champs.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators are quickly approaching what could be a dream season by many standards. At 20-3 (10-1 SEC), Florida is one of the nation’s better teams and the convincing win over Kentucky further proved that. The No. 7/6 Gators have lost games to only No. 9/9 Arizona, No. 10/11 Kansas State and—most recently—Arkansas. While the double-digit loss to the Razorbacks hurts, the Gators counter that with an RPI currently at No. 4. Those are the types of things the NCAA Tournament selection committee will take into account. So is the fact that Florida has beaten opponents by double digits in each of its 10 SEC victories. Even more impressive, all 20 of the Gators’ wins—SEC or not—have come by double digits. This is a team that has struggled—three times to be exact—but is approaching near-impossible-to-stop status when running on all cylinders.

Take Tuesday night for example. The Gators stretched a 13-point halftime lead to a 17-point win. Florida shot 49.1% from the field against a team that had only allowed opponents to connect on 37.8% of their shots. The Gators also made 42.9% of their three-point attempts and connected on nearly 80% of their free throws. Offensively, the Wildcats didn’t have an answer. Defensively, they struggled to keep up with the orange and blue as well. Shot blocking freshman phenom Nerlens Noel—who would leave the game with an injury in the second half—managed three blocks, but that was also the total for Kentucky as a whole. The Gators blocked nine Wildcat attempts on the night.

Junior guard Scottie Wilbekin lead Florida with 14 points, but junior center Patric Young was the Gators best player for most of the night. Young put in 12 points to go with 11 rebounds and four blocks. We continuously thank him for decided to return to Florida for his junior season. Three other Gators had double-digit point totals, including junior reserve guard/forward Casey Prather. Prather—filling in admirably for injured junior forward Will Yeguete—had 12 points for the second-straight game.

Winning is good; beating Kentucky by 17 is better. The Gators have only done that once before in Donovan’s time as the Florida head coach. They’ve beaten the Wildcats numerous other times, but only once by that much. Even winning had become rare as Kentucky had taken seven of the last eight meetings. The win gives the Gators their 20th of the season and their 15th-straight season doing so. With seven regular season games remaining and both the SEC and NCAA tournaments to play, Florida has a good chance to make it eight 25-win seasons under Donovan and even possibly get to 30 wins for the third time. The other two times? You already know when those were.