Florida Gators 78 – Alabama Crimson Tide 69: Gators Need Second Half to Pull Away

When Florida jumped out to an early 12-2 lead over Alabama on Saturday, it looked like the Gators were on their way to a blowout. That lead evaporated almost as fast as it grew and Florida would head into the locker room at halftime tied with the Crimson Tide.

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida Gators

The second half saw Bama give Florida much of the same as the Gators’ defense didn’t play up to it’s usual standards.

“If you play defense the way we did tonight, you’re not going to win. Thank God we had some offense today that helped us,” said Florida head coach Billy Donovan.

That offense came in the form of 62 percent shooting from the field and a second-half surge that saw the No. 3 Gators improve to 21-2 (10-0 SEC) on the season. The loss dropped the Anthony Grant-led Tide to 9-14 (3-7 SEC).

For the first time in over two months, all five Florida starters scored in double digits. The Gators were led senior guard Scottie Wilbekin’s 16. Senior center Patric Young added 11 and a highlight-reel block.

The Gators set a season high with 22 assists, but according to one Florida player, you aren’t going to hear Donovan praise them for that.

“Coach D is not going to tell us about that. As a coach, he wants us to see what we did wrong and get better from that. I think this game can help us learn. It better. Other teams are going to watch this film and see how we broke down and they’re going to run the same stuff,” said senior forward Will Yeguete.

The Gators have Sunday and Monday off before traveling to Knoxville, TN on Tuesday to take on 15-8 (6-4 SEC) Tennessee.

Florida Gators 69 – Texas A&M Aggies 36: Win Streak Reaches 13

Is there a sport in which the saying “defense wins championships” doesn’t apply? If so, it’s not college men’s basketball and that’s a good thing for the Florida Gators.

Patric Young, Florida Gators

On Saturday, Florida defeated Texas A&M 69-36. The win was the 13th in a row for No. 3 Florida and that streak could continue for quite some time. The 19-2 (8-0 SEC) Gators only have two games remaining on their regular season schedule against ranked opponents. Both of those contests pit Florida against Kentucky. It could be smooth sailing for the Gators between now and the NCAA Tournament and this team is good enough to make some serious noise come March.

Holding the Aggies to less than a point per minute is impressive; holding Texas A&M to less than 26% from the field may be more so. Not every game will go this way, but the Gators’ defense is an unmatched strength in the SEC. While there is talent elsewhere in the conference, Florida is benefiting from a down year all around. That’s not to take anything away from the Gators, but were at that point that anything less than both a regular season SEC title and conference tourney title would be a disappointment.

Florida was led by sophomore guard Michael Frazier II who led all scorers with 21 points. Only sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith joined Frazier II in the double-digit scoring club, but that didn’t matter much as not a single Aggie scored more than seven points.

Finney-Smith was one rebound away from a double-double, while senior center Patric Young was one point away from the same. Young led all players with 14 rebounds. Senior forward Will Yeguete also had a double-digit rebounding outing with 10.

Despite the big win, head coach Billy Donovan was ever the realist. “We haven’t even played half our league games yet,” Donovan said.

He’s right of course, but it’s exciting to see this team seemingly improve with every game. It’s scary to the rest of the nation that the Gators are about to get even better. On Tuesday, against Missouri, highly-touted freshman forward Chris Walker will finally make his debut.

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 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 – 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.

Patric Young to Return to Florida Gators for Senior Season

For the second-straight year, the Florida Gators can breathe a sigh of relief. Center Patric Young has announced he will return for another season.

Patric Young - Florida Gators

Once thought to be a top-10 pick in the NBA Draft, Young may have seen his stock fall slightly over the course of his junior season. While Young is a physical specimen with plenty of potential at the professional level, he is no longer a lock for the first round of the draft. That, along with other factors, may have made it easy for Young to decide to return for one final season donning the orange and blue of the good guys.

Academics could have been one of those other factors. Young has been selected as the SEC’s Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year following each of the last two seasons. The studious Young may be looking to bring home the three-peat.

The Gators’ finish at the end of each of Young’s seasons may be yet another reason. Florida took its final bow in the Elite Eight of the last three NCAA Tournaments, leaving Young exactly one game away from reaching the Final Four on three different occasions. Despite an extremely different Gators’ team set to take to the court in 2013-14, Florida should have another great opportunity to advance far in the tourney again.

Head coach Billy Donovan has some work to do, but having Young back should make it all a little easier. Young brings leadership and experience to a largely overhauled roster. With incoming freshmen and transfers set to join the likes of Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin, Michael Frazier II and the rest of the roster, the Gators are poised to make another deep run.

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.

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 Vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Gators In Need Of A Big Win

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.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

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.