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.
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.
On February 2, the Florida Gators defeated the Ole Miss Rebels to improve to 18-2 (8-0 SEC) on the season. The orange and blue would rise to No. 2 in the polls and hold that position for, well, not very long at all. Three days after beating Ole Miss, Florida fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks in an 11-point loss that felt much worse than even that double-digit margin. Three big wins followed, putting the Gators in the driver’s seat for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. A 1-2 record over the last three with losses to two unranked opponents puts that in danger.
On Saturday, Florida has a chance to prove itself once again. One of the nation’s better teams when healthy and playing up to their talents and abilities, the Gators host an Alabama Crimson Tide team that is eyeing a tournament appearance as well. Florida is in, but Bama may not be. A win over the Gators will go a long way for the Tide, but a big win for Florida is just as important.
Junior forward Will Yeguete and freshman guard Michael Frazier II return for the Gators, giving Florida a full lineup. It’s not clear exactly how much either Yeguete or Frazier can or will contribute, but having them available is a plus for a team that was extremely limited in the recent loss to the Tennessee Volunteers. If Yeguete is healthy enough to earn quality minutes, he brings an intensity the Gators need down low. And Frazier has been used substantially more than his freshmen classmates, providing a spark off of the bench. With the two healthy, Florida gets back more than 40 minutes, 12.4 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game.
The latest of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology (updated on March 1) has 22-5 (12-3 SEC) Florida as a No. 3 seed in the East Region. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it appears to be a very winnable region. But we know that’s not how it will shake up in the end and the Gators want and feel they deserve a higher seed. 19-9 (11-4 SEC) Alabama is on the outside looking in and not many are convinced they have the resume to be selected. A win over the No. 8/6 Gators will go a long way for the Tide. Closing out the regular season with three strong wins will go a long way for Florida. Both teams need victories and because of an increased level of intensity the Tide will surely bring, the Gators must play a full 40 minutes.
Florida won the 2006 NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed, but the Gators would like to go into this year’s tourney higher up the ladder. It’s very possible, Florida just needs to prove it over the next couple of weeks.
Losses are bad; wins are good. Seems simple enough. The Florida Gators–coming off a (learning?) loss–got back in the win column with an 82-43 victory over the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.
Florida was led by senior guard Mike Rosario who paced the Gators in almost every offensive category. Rosario had 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and went 4-for-8 from behind the arc. For good measure, he also tied for the team lead with six rebounds. Rosario did all of this while also leading Florida with 31 minutes on the court. The senior has experienced his ups and downs since becoming a Gator, but head coach Billy Donovan thinks Rosario has finally figured it all out.
“I think he has really conformed, he’s worked and I think it’s shown in his play. He’s much, much more disciplined, much more responsible, much more accountable. I feel like I know what I’m getting from him from day to day. That’s the most difficult thing to deal with as a coach, when you have a talented player and you don’t know who’s showing up and who you’re going to get from day to day. He’s kind of put it together, become more responsible, reliable and accountable, and because of it, I think he’s playing well.” – Billy Donovan, Florida Gators Head Coach
Freshman guard Michael Frazier II and junior center Patric Young joined Rosario as double-digit scorers. Senior guard Kenny Boynton was perhaps the only Gator that truly struggled. Boynton finished with seven points on 1-for-7 shooting. All seven of the senior’s shots were three-point attempts. Boynton has been off his game lately, following a 2-for-10 outing in the loss to the Arizona Wildcats.
Next up, the Gators travel to Kansas State on Saturday.