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.

Florida Gators 27 – Georgetown Hoyas 23; What 1 Half Of A Basketball Game Can Tell Us

On Friday night, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team played half of a game against the Georgetown Hoyas on an aircraft carrier. The court–temporarily housed on the USS Bataan–became unworthy for use and both teams decided it was in their best interests to call the game at the half. That can happen when you play outside on a court meant to be used inside. You generally don’t find the same sort of condensation problems unless your gym has serious air conditioning issues. In the end, there never was an end and the game was canceled after only 20 minutes of play. The Gators won–if you can call it a win, which you really can’t because it doesn’t count–27-23, so they have that going for them.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

We only saw 20 minutes of action, but it was enough to give us a brief glimpse into what the 2012-13 version of the Florida Gators may look like. We didn’t learn a lot–and the entire half could have been an aberration of what the season will really bring–but we were taught a thing or two about what’s ahead.

First of all, this looks to be another team that will live and die by the three-point shot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but keep a lookout for the first time the Gators fall behind by 9-12 points in an important game. How they try to get back into that game will be extremely telling. This team has the talent to win games behind the arc, but also the ability to lose them.

Without a true point guard, the Gators don’t have an assist man. The assists will come, but Florida needs someone to find Kenny Boynton for the open shot. Boynton can’t find himself and works well receiving the ball. He has the ability to play the point guard position, but the Gators would benefit greatly from having a distributor to play alongside him. Braxton Ogbueze will have to grow up quickly.

On that note, so will all of the freshman. It looks like they will be relied upon early and often this season. Billy Donovan likes fresh players on the court and to do so, he’ll have to play the four true freshman. They’ll need to get up to the speed of the college game immediately.

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Will Yeguete Recovering From Injury; Gators Forward Eyes 2012-13 Season

As a sophomore during the 2011-12 Florida Gators men’s basketball season, Will Yeguete contributed more than anyone ever could have imagined. Coming off of a freshman season in which he averaged 7.1 minutes per game, Yeguete was expected to see more time on the court, but just how much was anyone’s guess. What the Gators got was their hardest worker from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Despite Florida’s march to the Elite Eight – which could be considered a successful season by many – injuries cut into Yeguete’s season. He played his last game on February 21 in a win over Auburn. At that point in the season, the Gators were 22-6. Even with three wins in the NCAA Tournament, Florida would go 4-5 with Yeguete done for the season. His absence left the Gators without a gritty forward not afraid to do the dirty work.

Yeguete’s role will only expand as he enters his junior season. He’ll be part of a rotation that will include Patric Young, Erik Murphy and up-and-comer Casey Prather. The Gators will need Yeguete healthy from the first practice in the fall until the clock reaches 00:00 in their final game of the 2012-13 season.

Yeguete is currently recovering from his broken foot and working to get back to 100%. Recovery is a slow moving process, but with so much time until the new season begins, it’s nothing to worry about. Yeguete should be ready when the pace is picked up later this year.

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NCAA Tournament Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Marquette Golden Eagles – March 21, 2012

The Florida Gators’ basketball team heads into the Sweet 16 with renewed hope and a fanbase feeling confident in the team’s chances against the Marquette Golden Eagles. After two big wins in the opening rounds of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the Gators march into the final 16 with a great opportunity to push this run even further.

The Facts

Opponent: Marquette Golden Eagles
When: Thu., Mar. 21, 2012 – 10:17 PM
Where: Phoenix, AZ
Broadcast: TBS, Sirius 93, XM 191
Records: Florida: 25-10, Marquette: 27-7
Seeds: Florida: 7, Marquette: 3
Current Streak: Florida: W2, Marquette: W2
Point Spread: Marquette -2
Over/Under: 147
Calculated Score: Marquette 74-73/75-72
Point Scored: Florida: 76.3, Marquette: 75.9
Points Allowed: Florida: 66.0, Marquette: 66.2

The Preview

The teams have similar records, they have approximately the same production on the offensive end of the court, and they allow an eerily similar amount of points. While neither had a noteworthy finish to their regular and conference tournament seasons, both have looked good in the Big Dance to get to this point.

Vegas thinks this will be the highest scoring of the four Thursday night games and they could be right. The Gators, for lack of a better way to put it, utterly destroyed their first two opponents and will look to do the same. While the Golden Eagles had a tougher fight in the third round against Murray State, they beat BYU by 20 in the second round. According their seeds, Marquette should be here and Florida shouldn’t, but another Gators’ win would hardly surprise at this point.

While Florida can have any number of different players lead the team offensively, Marquette relies heavily on Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. The two combined to score 79 of the Eagles 150 total points in their first two games and were the only members of the roster to average double digits this season. Amazingly, even when they aren’t putting up points, Marquette wins. Only four times this season did one of the duo not score at least 10 points. The Eagles were 3-1 in those games. Slowing Crowder and Johnson-Odom will help the Gators cause, but it might not turn the tide completely in Florida’s favor.

The Gators will need another solid performance from freshman Bradley Beal who has more than proved his worth so far in the tourney. Beal is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds. He has only taken 16 shots in two games, but is making smart decisions and shooting the ball well. He has become the glue with Will Yeguete only able to watch.

In addition to Beal, Florida will be served well by another good outing from Kenny Boynton. The junior guard had hit the slump of all slumps when it came to shooting in recent games, but he finally found his stroke again in the win over Norfolk State. Boynton only went 2-for-7 from behind the three-point line, but made all five of his other field goal attempts and led the Gators with 20 points.

Florida needs to perform at both ends of the court against Marquette. The Gators need to continue to push opponents to keep up with them on offense, but also hope they can stop the Eagles from actually doing just that. If they can stay active on both ends, Florida should remain in this game and can advance to the next round. Marquette is a good team deserving of their No. 3 seed, but Florida’s recent improvement shows the talent is there to compete.

Men’s Basketball Recap: Georgia Bulldogs 76 – Florida Gators 62; Same Old Inconsistency

With only two games remaining in the Florida Gators men’s basketball regular season, the consensus of Hail Florida Hail for one word to sum up the Gators’ play this year: inconsistent. They experienced highs and lows all season, with convincing wins over Florida State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and most recently, Auburn. But they’ve also suffered disappointing losses to top teams Ohio State, Syracuse, and Kentucky and heart-breaking losses against downright bad teams Rutgers, Tennessee (twice!), and, Saturday, Georgia. The Gators were dismantled 76-62 by a sub-.500 team (13-15), the Bulldogs, who are second to last in the SEC standings.

The Gators never seemed to be in the game, and when they were, they choked. When the Gators finally got the deficit down to only five points during the final few minutes of the game, Bradley Beal committed a freshman mistake. Beal, the Gator’s top scorer for the game (19 points), seemingly the only Gator who showed up, had a double-double, but he suffered a late brain lapse. He committed one of the deadly basketball sins: fouling with one second on the shot clock by running into a Georgia player. Florida scored no points after that mistake.

The blame cannot be placed solely on Beal though, as everyone else on the team basically decided to take the worst games of his year and put them all together into one fun-packed night. The Gators, one of the top offenses in the country, shot an embarrassing 37% from the field and 22% from the three-point line. Experienced guards, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, favored taking tough shots all game, which they unfortunately missed. Sharp shooter Mike Rosario couldn’t find a rhythm from behind the three-point line and went 0-for-3. Erik Murphy was even worse, going 0-for-5.

Although the starters had rough games, the bench was not to be outdone. The bench played with low energy without Will Yeguete, injured for the season. They altogether gave forth a whopping eight points. Georgia’s bench doubled them with 16.

Saturday’s game, to say the least, was rough for the Gators. They only have two games left in the regular season, and big ones at that. The next two games are against Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The Gators’ record is now 22-7 overall and 10-4 in the SEC.

As always, be sure to let us know how far you think the Gators will go in the NCAA Tournament (even if your opinion has gone down after the loss) The poll is located in the bar to the right. Scroll down and you’ll find it.

Men’s Basketball Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Georgia Bulldogs – February 25, 2012

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators head to Athens, GA to face the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. The Gators and Bulldogs are two different teams with similar streaks. Well, similar in number only. Florida has won three straight, while Georgia has lost three in a row.

The Facts

Opponent: Georgia Bulldogs
When: Sat., Feb. 25, 2012 – 4:00 PM
Where: Athens, GA
Broadcast: SEC Network, GatorVision
Records: Florida: 22-6 (10-3 SEC, 4-5 Away), Georgia: 12-15 (3-10 SEC, 9-6 Home)
Rankings: Florida: 11/12, Georgia: NR
Current Streak: Florida: W3, Georgia: L3
Point Spread: Florida -7.5
Over/Under: 129.5
Calculated Score: Florida 68-61/69-61
Points Scored: Florida: 78.3, Georgia: 61.0
Points Allowed: Florida: 64.8 Georgia: 62.8
Last Meeting: Florida 70-48 (January 10, 2011)

The Preview

The 22-6 (10-3) Gators are working for NCAA Tournament seeding at this point. With only three games remaining in the regular season, Florida is looking to show the selection committee that it can finish strong. These final couple of games both lead up to the March 4 matchup with No. 1 Kentucky. But first, Georgia and a march toward the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament.

Florida and Georgia first met during the 2011-12 season early in January. The Gators led by 24 at the half and won by 32. Much of the same is expected even if the game is in Athens this time around and Florida is without sophomore forward Will Yeguete. Not to say Yeguete won’t be missed, but he wasn’t much of a factor against Georgia the first time around, so hopefully his absence won’t make too much of an impact. What the Gators do need to do in this one is learn how to play without him. Florida beat Alabama without the forward, but now has the realization that he’s done for the season.

The Gators won that first game by such a large margin in part due to 17 points each from junior guard Kenny Boynton and freshman guard Bradley Beal, but one key item had a lot to contribute to the victory – turnovers. The Gators only turned the ball over six times. Compare that to Tuesday’s win over Auburn when Florida lost the ball 18 times. The Gators had the luxury of having a game like that against Auburn, but hopefully it’s now out of their system and they can step up their performance against Georgia.

Men’s Basketball Recap: Florida Gators 63 – Auburn Tigers 47; Gators Lose Will Yeguete For Season In Win

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators improved to 22-6 (10-3 SEC) on Tuesday night witha 63-47 win over the Auburn Tigers, but they may have lost sophomore forward Will Yeguete for the season in the process.

A 16-point victory is always welcome even if it could be considered a second-straight ugly performance against Auburn, but the loss of Yeguete hurts. The sophomore left the game with a broken foot and early signs point to him being out six weeks minimum. Add it all up and that means the season is over for Yeguete. Quick healing and superhuman return times have been known to happen among athletes, but this may be asking too much. With the season quickly coming to a close, Billy Donovan needs another option to step up and fill in for the spark Yeguete provided.

As for the game, Florida made over 50% of their shots from the field and from behind the three-point line, but turnovers kept it from being a model win. The Gators turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and another six in the second. Turnovers have done in Donovan’s teams in recent years and against someone with more talent than the Tigers, this one might have been a loss. Luckily for Florida, the shots were falling.

Junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way with 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Boynton is finding his touch again and also made six of his nine attempts from downtown. Senior guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Bradley Beal both scored 13. We’ll continue to keep our fingers crossed for a return for his sophomore season from Beal regardless of how unlikely it is becoming.

The issue for the Gators as they head into the end of the season may be finding points elsewhere. Junior forward Erik Murphy was the only other Gator to attempt more than two shots. When the three guards are in their respective zones, all is good in Gator Nation. If two are having off nights, someone else needs to step up. With Yeguete out, that may be more than just one additional scorer. Mike Rosario, we’re talking to you. Get healthy and find your rhythm. Your time may have finally come.

Men’s Basketball Recap: Florida Gators 98 – Arkansas Razorbacks 68; Dismantling In Fayetteville

The No. 12/14 Florida Gators were firing on all cylinders on Saturday night in a 98-68 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Gators shot 58.3% from the field and 56.5% from behind the three-point line while holding the Razorbacks below 37% in both categories.

Florida bounced back from two tough losses with a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier this week, but on Saturday night they looked like the team they’ve had the potential to be all season. In addition to great shooting from the field, the Gators went 29-for-34 from the free-throw line. Three Gators scored over 20 points, including a career-high 31 from senior guard Erving Walker. Walker added five assists and didn’t turn the ball over once. It was a career night for the guard and one that he can turn into positive momentum going forward.

Junior guard Kenny Boynton added 25 points and freshman guard Bradley Beal had 21. Junior forward Erik Murphy had 13 and sophomore forward Will Yeguete matched his season-high with 11 rebounds after returning from a concussion he suffered against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The win was the biggest over Arkansas since Bud Walton Arena opened in 1993. It was also the largest win for Florida since the Gators beat Jacksonville 107-62 earlier this season on November 25.

Florida improved to 21-6 (9-3 SEC) and now has two days off before returning home to host Auburn on Tuesday, February 21.

Men’s Basketball Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Arkansas Razorbacks – February 18, 2012

The No. 12/14 Florida Gators bounced back with a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide earlier this week and now on Saturday hit the road again to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. Florida needs another win to get back on track and gain momentum heading into the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

The Facts

Opponent: Arkansas Razorbacks
When: Saturday, February 18, 2012 – 6:00 PM
Where: Fayetteville, AR
Television/Radio: ESPN2, GatorVision
Records: Florida: 20-6 (8-3 SEC, 3-5 Away), Arkansas: 17-9 (5-6 SEC, 17-1 Home)
Rankings: Florida: 12/14, Arkansas: NR
Current Streak: Florida: W1, Arkansas: L1
Point Spread: Florida -5
Over/Under: 146
Calculated Score: Florida 75-70/76-71
Points Scored: Florida: 78.1, Arkansas: 73.0
Points Allowed: Florida: 65.1, Arkansas: 67.6
Last Meeting: Florida 75-43 (January 22, 2011)

The Preview

In case you hadn’t noticed, Florida football had ruled the roost today. But enough of that for a moment because the Gators’ men’s basketball is in the home stretch of their regular season and Saturday night’s game against the Razorbacks is just as important as all the rest.

Florida may see a full roster against Arkansas. Mike Rosario and Will Yeguete could make appearances and would be welcomed back with open arms. The Gators need every able body they can get to make it through the last few weeks before the tournaments begin, but in Yeguete’s case, it might be better to wait. The sophomore forward is said to have passed post-concussion tests, but you can never be too careful. If he’s not needed, it may just be better if he is a spectator in this one.

The Gators look to get back on track after dropping two games a week ago. A win over Alabama was a win, but the Tide were without their top two scorers leaving many to wonder just how big of a win it really was. If Florida can put a string of a few wins together before meeting the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats on March 4, things will be looking up and many questions may be answered. This team has the talent to compete with just about any team in the nation, but needs to prove it over and over again in each and every game.

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.