Florida Gators 61 – Alabama Crimson Tide 51: Gators Advance to SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced to the SEC Tournament finals after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 61-51 on Saturday. The Gators needed a second-half comeback sparked by senior guard Kenny Boynton to pull past the Tide, but were able to do so in fine fashion. Florida will face either the Ole Miss Rebels or Vanderbilt Commodores for the conference championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

Boynton scored all 16 of his points in a six-minute span in the second half. His sudden burst of offense turned the tide on the (sorry about this) Tide. Suddenly, a 10-point Bama lead became a 10-point Florida win. Struggling mightily in recent weeks, Boynton saw his fortunes change. He finished the day shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-6 from behind the arc. Despite only finding the basket during those six minutes, Boynton was the Gators leading scorer.

Senior guard Mike Rosario and junior center Patric Young joined Boynton with double-digit scoring. The Gators, as a team, didn’t shoot nearly as well as they did just one day earlier in the win over LSU, but it was enough to advance. While the Tide put enough pressure on the Gators to hold on to a solid lead for a good portion of the game, they just couldn’t keep it going. During the final 15 minutes of the game, Florida showed just how good they can be. The Gators outscored the Tide 34-14 over that span, which included a 15-0 run at one point.

Head coach Billy Donovan now finds his squad playing for the SEC championship. Already having taken home the regular season title, the Gators want the tournament trophy. If Florida can continue their run and put together a third-straight impressive victory, the NCAA Tournament selection committee will take notice and reward the Gators. There’s just one more game to make an impression. Only Ole Miss or Vandy stand in the way.

Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: One More Win Puts Gators in SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced the SEC Tournament semifinals with ease thanks to an 80-58 win over the LSU Tigers on Friday. The Gators will face the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1:00 PM on Saturday thanks to the Tide’s 58-48 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were running on all cylinders against the Tigers and showed little desire to take their foot off the pedal. Senior forward Erik Murphy had a career game and Florida shot well from the field. Add to that a defensive performance to hang your hat on and it was an easy victory for the orange and blue.

There was one Gator that would have wanted to contribute more to the team’s cause though. Senior guard Kenny Boynton has been caught in the middle of a shooting slump of epic proportions. Boynton has shot 37.6% from the field and 29.4% from behind the arc during his senior season–both career lows. The senior hasn’t reached 20 points in a game since January 2 and hasn’t shot better than 45.5% since January 26. To make matters worse, Boynton has only shot better than 37.5% once in his last seven games.

Kenny Boynton is a phenomenal player and will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Gators uniform, but we’re all sure this isn’t how he wants it to end. If the wins keep coming, the statistics don’t matter, but he surely wants to contribute on the offensive end. While his last performance against the Tide wasn’t a stellar one, it was solid enough to warrant a desire to repeat it. Boynton went 3-for-8 from the floor, 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, scored 13 total points, and had three assists to zero turnovers. If Boynton can do that again on Saturday, he’ll erase his 1-for-7 performance against LSU.

Head coach Billy Donovan has turned up the intensity on his team. Practices have been harder and Donovan has pushed his team to play to the talent he knows it possesses. It worked on Friday and should again on Saturday. With each SEC Tournament win, the Gators gain momentum for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Another big game is needed against Bama.

Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers: Top-Seeded Gators Look for Victory in Opening SEC Tournament Game

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team will begin their quest for the 2013 SEC Tournament on Friday. At 1:00 PM, the top-seeded Gators will face the LSU Tigers in Nashville, TN. LSU defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 68-63 on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators are looking for their fourth conference tourney championship. Florida won its first three titles in back-to-back-to-back seasons from 2005 to 2007. The Gators, as you surely remember, would go on to win national championships after the final two of those three. Just a few short weeks ago, Florida was considered a national title contender again, but a 3-3 record over the final six games of the regular season has left many questions unanswered.

That 3-3 record is behind the Gators now. It doesn’t matter anymore. The postseason starts on Friday and Florida is only permitted one more loss. Not that we want that loss to occur, far from it, but there is one on the table.

We would prefer the Gators to make this easy on all of us and go 9-0 over the next few weeks. That would be the clean and simple end to this season’s story that we’re all looking for. We’ll take 8-1, 7-1, or even 6-1, but only if that loss comes in the next three days. Let’s throw those scenarios out though and go back to the 9-0 dream. Again, clean and simple.

The Gators and Tigers last faced each other in Baton Rouge, LA on January 12. Florida cruised to a 74-52 victory. Senior guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 20 points and junior forward Will Yeguete had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. LSU struggled to find any sort of rhythm, only shooting 32.3% from the field.

The stakes are much higher this time around. For Florida, it’s about NCAA Tournament seeding. For LSU, it’s about survival. The Tigers will bring more against the Gators than they did two months ago. They have to. The Gators, on the other hand, look to prove they can live up to the lofty expectations that have faded in recent weeks. Florida is the team that should win not only on Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday as well. They question is if they will.

Kentucky Wildcats 61 – Florida Gators 57: Gators Fall In Regular Season Finale

The Florida Gators will head into the SEC Tournament without the momentum they were hoping to carry. After two big conference wins, the Gators fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 61-57 in the regular season finale. The loss drops Florida to 24-6 (14-4 SEC), while Kentucky improves to 21-11 (11-6 SEC). The Gators hadn’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007 and will have to wait another season for a chance to break that streak.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

The game was one of streaks as both teams jumped out to big leads only to have the other fight back. It was good for Florida at times and bad at others. Unfortunately, the last of the bad times encompassed the final 7:36 of the game. With that much time left on the clock, the Gators went up 57-50. Florida would not score again. Yes, you read that correctly. The Gators would not add a single point to their total for the final seven minutes and 36 seconds. In that time, the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to close out the regular season on the SEC champs.

The Gators shot better than the Wildcats across the board, but it wasn’t enough. Senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but they weren’t helped by the other Florida starters. Senior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 8-for-24 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the three-point line. None of the three were able to get into double digits in scoring.

While Kentucky didn’t shoot as well as Florida overall, they did when it mattered. The Wildcats only went 13-for-22 from the free-throw line on the day, but were 3-for-4 in the final 25 seconds. The Gators struggled to find a good look at the basket as time was running down as Kentucky kept up the defensive pressure and didn’t allow Florida anything easy.

The Gators regular season has to be considered a successful one, but ultimately it’s all about how you finish. Florida is 3-3 over the final six games and all three losses came to unranked opponents. While the Gators do have quality wins, the selection committee will be taking recent play into account and the end to the season will hurt Florida when it comes to seeding.

Florida has a chance to shake off the Kentucky loss before the SEC Tournament, but that will be here soon. The Gators should find themselves in the conference tourney title game, but they have to get there first. The regular season is over. It’s tourney time. There’s no excuse for losses of any kind.

Florida Gators 66 – Vanderbilt Commodores 40: Gators Win SEC Title, Finish Unbeaten At Home

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team claimed the program’s fourth outright SEC title on Wednesday night with a 66-40 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores. A conference title was the ultimate goal, but the Gators also capped off an undefeated home record with the win. The last Florida team to do that–2006-07–just happened to win a national championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators put the game out of reach early, jumping out to a nine-point lead midway through the first half. The outcome was never truly in question after it took the Commodores nearly 16 minutes of game time to reach the double-digit mark in points. Florida would go on to lead by 10 at the half and extend that lead in the second frame.

In addition to the SEC title and undefeated home record, Florida claimed the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Gators still travel to Kentucky to close out the regular season against the Wildcats, but their place in the SEC tourney is already known.

The three Florida seniors went out on a high note. Guard Kenny Boynton led all Gators scorers with 15 points while forward Erik Murphy added 10 and guard Mike Rosario had five. It surely was a great feeling for all three to get a big victory and win a regular season conference title in their last game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida still has that final hurdle–the regular season finale at Kentucky–to get over before thinking too much about the tournaments ahead, but they will both be here soon enough. This is the time of season to stay focused and build on wins like Wednesday night’s.

Congrats to the Gators and the senior class on an impressive victory.

Plenty On the Line In The Florida Gators Final Home Game

The No. 11/9 Florida Gators men’s basketball team will play its final home game of the 2012-13 regular season on Wednesday. The Gators will host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a matchup with a number of storylines.

Erik Murphy - Florida Gators

First and foremost, Florida can secure the program’s fourth outright SEC title with a victory over Vandy. Not only will it be the fourth for the program, it will be the second for the current seniors. If the Gators get the win, the seniors will be the first class to ever win two outright conference titles.

Not far behind, but less meaningful if we’re being honest, is a chance to go undefeated at home during the regular season for the first time since 2006-07. Not losing at home doesn’t mean much toward the Gators chances at a national championship, but the last Florida team to do so just happened to take home the trophy. Being unbeatable in your own building is a matter of pride though. It’s not something Florida will want to slip out of their hands in their final game. And more wins never hurt.

Finally, it’s senior night for two that have been there since the beginning—guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy—and one that has raised his level of playing during his final season—guard Mike Rosario. While Boynton won’t do it in this game, he still has an outside shot at becoming the Gators all-time leading scorer. Not bad for a player many expected to be long gone at this point.

For Boynton, it’s a chance to go out on a high note; to play his final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and leave the building with another victory. With 150 points to go and a career-low scoring average of 12.5 points per game, it seems unlikely Boynton will break the record, but he’s playing for more. Boynton joined the Gators following the back-to-back NIT seasons (ugh) and hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since. Two Elite Eight appearances is nothing to scoff at, but he’ll want more this final season.

Murphy has developed into a threat from anywhere on the court. After nearly ruining his college basketball career, Murphy was allowed to remain in the program by head coach Billy Donovan and became the player he is today. Vital to Florida’s success, Murphy has career highs across the board this season—minutes, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, scoring average, you name it.

Then there’s Rosario. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario was expected to bring his heightened scoring ability to the Gators. After a rocky first two seasons (he sat out after transferring), Rosario seems to have brought it together. He hasn’t reached the scoring numbers he put up while with the Scarlet Knights, but Rosario is the Gators leading scorer and a danger to opposing defenses when he has the ball.

Wednesday won’t mark the end of the 2012-13 season, but it does mean more than just another game to the Gators. Florida wants that SEC title. The Gators want to hold on to that unblemished home record. And the seniors want to walk out of the O’Connell Center victorious.

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 79 – Yale Bulldogs 58: Kenny Boynton Becomes Florida’s All-Time Three-Point Leader

As the 2012 college football season comes to a close, we’re caught up in bowl games, the ramp up in the recruiting cycle, and the news of transfers or possible departures. We tend to overlook the happenings of the college basketball world. It’s not a shot at the sport itself, but merely the reality of it all. On Sunday, we had a chance to witness something both orange and blue and all-together wonderful at the same time in that sport that is about to pull in much of our focus.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Florida Gators defeated the Yale Bulldogs 79-58. And expected victory with a nice story to go with it. In the midst of an offensive slump, senior guard Kenny Boynton came to life. Boynton scored 28 points–tying a career-high–and also connected of eight of his 10 three-point attempts. With those eight makes, Boynton raised his total to 290 made from behind the arc, breaking Lee Humphrey’s school record of 288. With much of the season remaining, Boynton could very well make the new record unreachable.

Congrats to the Gators on another victory, but an extra round of applause to Boynton and his entire career. It’s been a good ride so far and it’s not even over for the senior.

Kansas State Wildcats 67 – Florida Gators 61: Dead Streaks Kill Gators Again

In the loss to the Arizona Wildcats, the Florida Gators had four minutes that determined the fate of the game. On Saturday night, the Gators doubled that to eight minutes, during which the Kansas State Wildcats took control and secured the 67-61 victory.

Florida Gators - Kansas State Wildcats

This is nothing new for Florida basketball. For as long as Billy Donovan has been the head coach of the Gators, we’ve seen Florida teams go through worrisome stretches that have led to tough losses. That’s not to say Donovan should be drug out of his office kicking and screaming and dumped in the middle of Paynes Prairie–after all, the man can coach–but it’s an observation of a situation that keeps appearing and leading to painful defeats.

Here are two such dead streaks that contributed to the Gators’ second loss of the 2012-13 season:

First Half, 7:55 – Scottie Wilbekin makes a free throw and the Gators go up 19-17. Florida wouldn’t score again for more than three minutes. During that stretch, Kansas State would take the lead and push it to 26-19.

Second Half, 9:15 – Wilbekin makes a layup to bring the Gators to within three. The Wildcats lead 50-47. Florida would go almost five minutes without scoring, during which Kansas State would go up 57-47.

Eight minutes of scoreless basketball for the Gators led to the six-point loss. Kansas State outscored Florida 16-0 during those stretches, or more than they needed to win the game. Not quite as heartbreaking as the one-point loss to Arizona, but still disappointing for the No. 8/9 team.

Senior guard Mike Rosario fell flat after leading the team in a big win over Southeastern Louisiana. Fellow senior guard Kenny Boynton wasn’t much better, shooting less than 40% from the field. Combine them with junior guard Scottie Wilbekin and the trio went 10-for-31 from the field and 2-for-12 from behind the arc. While junior center Patric Young had a night to remember, everyone else had an outing to forget.

The loss puts the Gators at 8-2 with two losses on the road that will be remembered come NCAA Tournament selection time. Let’s be clear, Florida is a tourney-bound team, but losses like these impact seeding. It’s not the end of the world, or even the end of the season, but a second loss in three games and 12 cumulative minutes of nothing.

Florida Gators Vs. Kansas State Wildcats: We Got Ourselves A Bit Of A Challenge Ahead

Not many better ways I can think to kick off a long vacation than with a premier college basketball matchup. Okay, so a premier college football matchup would rank slightly higher on my list, but the Florida Gators heading to Kansas City, MO to face the Kansas State Wildcats will more than do.

Mike Rosario - Florida Gators

On Saturday night, the Gators and Wildcats will play in what is being referred to as a neutral site game. I would laugh at that, but the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is widely considered a neutral site as well. Although, Google Maps would tell us Gainesville, FL is 1,133 miles from Kansas City, while Manhattan, KS is a mere 121 miles away. Still, neither of these teams calls K.C. its home, so neutral it is. And that’s more than enough about a neutral site that might not really be a neutral site.

We have officially entered the time of year when we start our shift from college football to college basketball. The Gators’ football team last played on November 24 (WOO HOO!!! WE BEAT FLORIDA STATE!!!) (Sorry.) (No, I’m not.). The basketball team has played four times since then and will play twice more before the football team takes the field in the Sugar Bowl. That would indicate our focus had already begun to shift and, yes, it has.

The 8-1 Gators come into Saturday’s game ranked No. 8/9. The Wildcats aren’t ranked, but at 8-2 aren’t far from the top of the Big 12 standings. Both teams have a lot to play for. For Florida, a chance to get a win against a solid opponent and put the loss to No. 4/5 Arizona even further behind them. For Kansas State, a chance to knock of a team that may be among this season’s elite. Just one week ago, the Gators were a top-5 team. They may get there again and because of that it would be a monumental win for the Wildcats early in the 2012-13 season.

But it would also be a telling one for the Gators. Florida had dominated opponents before it lost to ‘Zona. A 13-point victory over UCF was as close as anyone had come. After the loss to the other Wildcats, the Gators rebounded nicely with a big win over Southeastern Louisiana, but how much did that game teach us? Or better yet, how much did it teach Florida? Well, it taught them that when senior guard Kenny Boynton is off, someone needs to step up. That someone was fellow senior guard Mike Rosario. If Boynton finds himself off his game again, who will it be against the Wildcats.

Enjoy this one; the Gators only play twice over the next 15 days. It’s one of only three left before SEC play begins. The Gators need a win more than it might seem.