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.

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.

2012 Basketball Recruiting Report: Braxton Ogbueze – Point Guard – Charlotte, NC

In a year the Florida Gators were to lose their starting point guard Erving Walker to graduation, Billy Donovan picked up his top commit of the 2012 recruiting cycle in United Faith Christian Academy point guard Braxton Ogbueze. A solid athlete, Ogbueze looks to step into immediate playing time at Florida and share point guard duties with junior Scottie Wilbekin.

The Rundown

Name: Braxton Ogbueze
Position: Point Guard
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 185
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
High School: United Faith Christian Academy
Class: 2012
Rankings: 247Sports – 4 stars, No. 6 PG, No. 52 Overall | ESPN – 4 stars, No. 7 PG, No. 50 Overall | Scout – 4 stars, No. 5 PG | Rivals – 4 stars, No. 14 PG, No. 78 Overall
Status: Committed to Florida

The Report

After considering Baylor, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wake Forest, the Charlotte guard Braxton Ogbueze narrowed his recruitment down to the Gators and the Bears, though he would eventually commit to Florida. His official commitment would come following a Gators’ win over Alabama. Ogbueze was then the second player to join the 2012 recruiting class.

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Injury Report: Mike Rosario And Will Yeguete Could Return Against Arkansas

The Florida Gators could possibly return to action two of their best bench players, junior guard Mike Rosario and sophomore forward Will Yeguete, Saturday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The two players missed Tuesday’s win over Alabama.

Rosario has missed the last two games with a hip pointer, but he was cleared to practice Friday. Billy Donovan has not yet cleared Rosario to play against the Razorbacks and has said that sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather and sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin may be better options as Rosario works to get back into game shape.  Wilbekin picked up most of the bench minutes, playing twenty-two minutes Tuesday while Prather only played two.

Yeguete may also make a return Saturday night. He suffered his second concussion of the season last Saturday against the Tennessee Volunteers and missed Tuesday’s game. Fortunately for the Gators, they held a size advantage against Alabama – one of the few times all season – and won the rebound battle. Yeguete passed all five post-concussion tests this week after passing only two by Tuesday, but Donovan says he will still be evaluated by team doctors before the game Saturday night and has only been cleared to practice thus far.

The two players, particularly Yeguete, could play key roles if they are cleared to play when they travel  to Arkansas for the SEC matchup. Concussions and the health of players have been major concerns for sports. Would you rather Yeguette return Saturday and possibly risk further injury, or rest until fully healthy? The end of the regular season is approaching, and it is important to start thinking about the tournaments and not necessarily rushing someone back that might not be entirely ready.

Men’s Basketball Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Vanderbilt Commodores – February 4, 2012

The countdown to the end of the season continues. One month from today, the Florida Gators will play their last game of the regular season, but today the mighty Gators welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores to the O’Connell Center. Florida is 12-0 at home during the 2011-12 season and doesn’t plan on adding a loss to that record any time soon.

The Facts

Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores
When: Saturday, February 4, 2012 – 1:00 PM
Where: Gainesville, FL
Television/Radio: CBS, GatorVision, Sirius 220, XM 199
Records: Florida: 18-4 (6-1 SEC, 12-0 Home), Vanderbilt: 16-6 (5-2 SEC, 4-2 Away)
Rankings: Florida: 12/11, Vanderbilt: 25/27*
Current Streak: Florida: W6, Vanderbilt: L1
Point Spread: Florida -6
Over/Under: 145
Calculated Score: Florida 75-69/76-70
Points Scored: Florida: 80.4, Vanderbilt: 74.6
Points Allowed: Florida: 65.0, Vanderbilt: 66.1
Last Meeting: Florida 77-66 (March 12, 2011 – SEC Tournament)

*The Commodores are second among “others receiving votes” in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.

The Preview

There are certain things in life you need to protect and among those is this house. Florida is 12-0 at home this season and hasn’t lost at the O’Connell Center since January 15, 2011. Looking at a calendar would tell me that’s over a year of wins at home. Against a Vanderbilt team that’s 2-2 in their last four, that home streak can’t end. It doesn’t hurt the Gators chances that they’re also on a six-game win streak overall. And of course we have to mention that Florida took Vandy’s spot in the SEC standings recently and won’t want to give it up any time soon.

The Commodores are led once again by junior guard John Jenkins. Jenkins leads Vandy in minutes played and points scored. The Gators saw Jenkins three times last season and three times the Vandy star wasn’t able to push his team to victory. The most telling game was the SEC Tournament matchup in which Florida held Jenkins to 10 points on 3-for-15 shooting and 2-for-12 from behind the arc. Teams don’t do that to Jenkins a lot. If the Gators can force him to take bad shots again, the ‘Dores don’t stand a chance.

Florida will lean on its big five – Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal, Erving Walker, Patric Young and Erik Murphy – who all average double digits in points. The Gators will need those points as they face a team that scores more than the others they’ve recently faced. All five – as well as Will Yeguete, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin – will need to be ready for this one. The points will come for both teams and it could be decided by a few big plays on the defensive end of the court.

Enjoy your Saturday and be glad we don’t have another wait until the late hours of the night to watch the Gators.

Is Florida’s Backcourt The Nation’s Best?

A lot of people know more about basketball than I do. I’m a fan of Florida basketball, but when it comes to the sport, I don’t know much about the ins and outs. Tell me someone is good off the dribble and at cuts under the basket and my response might be “him dunks good.” Basically, I’m saying there are others out there that can give you more when it comes to the intricacies of the game.
John Gasaway is one of those people. Gasaway – on ESPN – has ranked Florida’s backcourt the best in the nation and does so without even mentioning last season’s late surprise Scottie Wilbekin. Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army questions if the Gators are truly better than powers such as Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina and he’d be right in his skepticism. Regardless, the one thing to take out of all of this is that Florida has very, very good guards. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker bring the experience, Brad Beal will be oh-so-good, and you can’t forget out transfer Mike Rosario.
Kudos also goes out to Hutchins who mentions Donnell Harvey – a TBG favorite despite his brief time at Florida.

Point Guard Braxton Ogbueze Commits to the Florida Gators

Michael Frazier was probably getting lonely.  The Plant (Tampa, FL) shooting guard committed to Florida back in August of 2010.  Today, he gained a friend and future teammate when United Faith Christian Academy (Charlotte, North Carolina) point guard Braxton Ogbueze chose the Gators over Baylor.

The 6’1”, 185 lb. Ogbueze is the nation’s #9 point guard and #48 player overall according to Rivals.com.  He had a lot of interest, but had narrowed his decision down to the Gators or the Bears.  Picking up a point guard was big for Florida.  The Gators will lose current starter Erving Walker following the season before Ogbueze arrives in Gainesville and Scottie Wilbekin will be beginning his junior year.
Ogbueze is a scoring point guard (of course what high-ranked high schoolers aren’t scorers?) who doesn’t have any fear of taking shots.  He has a great ability to make plays off the dribble and makes his teammates better.  Ogbueze is still improving so be sure to follow him during his senior year.  He’s an exciting prospect to watch.

Recap: #22 Kentucky Wildcats 76 – #13 Florida Gators 68

It’s wasn’t a win.  For the last good chunk of the game, it wasn’t even close.  Kentucky (20-8, 8-6 SEC) took care of business in the second half and kept Florida (22-6, 11-3 SEC) at bay long enough to secure the win over the SEC’s hottest team.  The Wildcats shot well, rebounded well, and, well, played well.  Well enough to split the season series with the Gators and push themselves a little closer to a NCAA Tournament bid.

Florida didn’t play bad, but they got sucked into some of their old habits.  The assist-to-turnover ratio was good, for a Gator team, but it is still a concern.  A concern mostly when the starting guards (Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker) only manage seven assists combined for the game and one of the forwards gets seven all by himself (Chandler Parsons).  There’s also that issue that still lingers of taking bad shots at bad times.  It’s not that the Gators take bad shots; it’s when they choose to take them.  If a Billy Donovan-coached team is down by three, you can almost bet they’ll be taking a shot from behind the arch their next time down the court.  This ends up getting Florida into more trouble than they’d like.
The good news is that Parsons looks healthy.  He led the Gators in minutes played, assists, and rebounds.  The bad news is that it wasn’t enough.  But this is a game Florida could afford to lose and Kentucky couldn’t.  Right there was the advantage.  The Wildcats needed the win and the Gators didn’t.  Advantage Kentucky.  And they took control in the second half and cruised to the victory.  This isn’t a game you want to lose, but of any of the remaining regular season contests, it could be the one you could afford to the most.
Going forward, Florida needs more quality minutes from its reserves than they got in this one.  Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young combined to play for 35 minutes. Neither took a shot.  While neither of those players is relied upon to contribute heavily to the offense just yet, to go for that many minutes and not produce on that end of the court is a concern.  Both need to be confident in their abilities by this point in the season and those minutes need to become quality ones come tournament time.
Florida only has a couple of days off before facing Alabama on March 1.  Time to get momentum back as the season winds down.

The Long Snapper (5/26/10)

Get used to me mentioning Nelson Agholor.  Especially because he’s only going to be a high school junior this fall.  That means lots of time left in his recruitment.  And boy has it started.  The athlete from Berkeley Prep (Tampa, FL) received a big offer to kick off the excitement that will be the next few years.  Agholor – who could end up at running back, wide receiver, or safety at the next level – received an offer from USC and…wait for it…is getting serious looks from Florida.  He may be from a small school that doesn’t tend to get a lot of national attention, but Agholor is one to keep an eye on.  In September when schools can officially offer (the Trojans’ is basically a good faith offer), expect them to start rolling in.  Along with USC and Florida, Rutgers and USF have early interest.
What’s in store for USF this season?  A transition period as Skip Holtz implements his schemes?  A step back?  A leap forward?  It’s hard to tell based on the fact that year after year no one really knows what to think of the Bulls.  Quick starts.  Awful finishes.  Climbing the polls early.  Finishing in the middle of what could be considering the worst of the big six conferences.  USF has some star power (B.J. Daniels), but has also lost some (Mike Ford).  Odds are the Bulls will win a game they’re not supposed to, but also lose one (or two) they probably shouldn’t have.  Although the Big East is not considered the cream of the crop for the most part, they are competitive within their conference confines.  If I had to venture an early guess, I’d say we’re looking at something within the eight-win range again.
While everyone keeps their eyes on the Big Ten, the Big East is looking into expansion possibilities as well.  Not wanting to be caught with his pants down, Big East commissioner John Marinatto has looked into options for his conference.  Although the Big East won’t be able to attract the level of programs the Big Ten can, they can strengthen their base before they’re raided.  With rumors of as many as three Big East teams being Big Ten targets, the conference may need to act before the “power” conferences do.  Already a small conference by numbers, the Big East needs to build its size in preparation for what is most likely going to occur sometime in the not too distant future.
Former Florida guard/new Florida center Mike Pouncey has been named to the Rimington Trophy watch list.  You may recall his twin brother – Maurkice Pouncey – taking home the award last year.  Pouncey should make the transition to center look easy and be the anchor and leader of the offensive line.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to be bet twins have never each won the award.  Too bad the McCollums never became Thorpe candidates.
The List: The list is but one today.  One that relates to the G in TBG and one that relates to the first item above.
1. Jim Barrie
The Sixth Man: Goodbye Nimrod Tishman.  We hardly knew you.  No breaking news here, but it’s official: Tishman will not return to the Gators.  The point guard will instead return to Israel where his talents are a better fit for the style of play.  Tishman appeared briefly in seven games for Florida last season, but was unable to contribute much due to the speed of the game.  Tishman’s expected departure could have weighed heavily on Scottie Wilbekin’s decision to come in a year early.  Wilbekin will be a development project during his first year with the Gators, but may be needed for depth as well.