Florida Gators 62 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 50: Gators Put an End to Cinderella’s Dream

With 5:16 left in the first half of Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the Florida Gators and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, the Cinderella Eagles led the Gators 24-14. The nation was on its feet cheering on the little team that could, the first 15-seed to ever reach the Sweet Sixteen. We were all witnessing history and it was getting even better. Those of us in orange and blue land were shell shocked, wondering if this was all really happening. And just like that it wasn’t and order was restored.

Casey Prather - Florida Gators

For the first 15 minutes, the Eagles controlled the game as the Gators seemed to unravel before our very eyes. The next 25 minutes would be an entirely different story. Over the final five minutes of the first half and the entire second half, Florida would outscore Florida Gulf Coast 48-26 on route to a 62-50 Gators’ victory and a third-straight Elite Eight appearance. The Eagles performance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was admirable, but it all came crashing to an end when, for 25 minutes, the Gators showed the world what a talent gap truly is.

From time to time, games like this come down to numbers. Realistically, this one came down to the aforementioned talent, but there were numbers to factor in as well. The Eagles out-shot the Gators to the tune of 45.5% to 38.6%. That was the only statistic Florida Gulf Coast would win that mattered.

20 is another important one. The Eagles connected on 20 of their field-goal attempts. They would also commit 20 turnovers. When those numbers match, there’s a better than good chance you’ll end up on the losing side of things. The Gators’ ratio? 22-to-10.

The Eagles had less rebounds, assists and steals and nearly double the personal fouls. They shot better from behind the three-point line, but also had 12 less attempts at the charity stripe. Those 12 more attempts were critical as the Gators made eight of them. Eight more made free throws and a 12-point margin of victory; there’s a link there.

When all nearly looking lost in the first half, Billy Donovan altered his strategy. He leaned on Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather to provide sparks. Frazier was only on the court for 13 minutes, but had two critical threes as the Gators mounted their comeback. And then there was the dunk pictured above from Prather, who would end with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Sometimes a picture really is worth a million words.

We could beat the Cinderella angle to death, and we probably should with how much we heard about it over the past week, but we won’t. We’ll let Florida Gulf Coast slump off into the night. They should be proud of what they accomplished this season, but David doesn’t always slay Goliath. No, David is going home and Goliath has a date with a pack of nasty wolverines. Florida vs. Michigan, 2:20 PM, Sunday.

Florida Gators vs. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles: When the Underdog is the Heavy Favorite

Watch the news, pick up a paper, or browse the internet and you might not know who the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’ opponent in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2013 NCAA Tournament is. You’d read about the little team that could; the school that is less than 25 years old and was known by few outside of the state of Florida’s borders until about one week ago. You might not see much about their opponent because you’d be reading about their head coach’s wife or about how the Eagles will most definitely advance to the Elite Eight. You would hear all about this underdog that has suddenly become the heavy favorite. And that makes the Florida Gators and their fans very happy.

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Basketball

No one wants to talk about the Gators. No, the focus is instead squarely on Florida Gulf Coast and a wonderment of just how far the Eagles can go. It’s not so much whether they can beat the Gators, but what will happen when they do beat the Gators. Oh, Florida is favored and you’d be hard pressed to find someone to argue that the Gators are the squad with less talent, but you wouldn’t know that this week. All you know is that Florida Gulf Coast is on a collision course with a national championship.

Well folks, that’s not going to happen. The Eagles are not going to win it all. By the time we all wake up on Saturday morning, Florida Gulf Coast could be out of the tournament altogether. Of course, the other side of that is that the Gators could be done. And that’s very true. I’m not guaranteeing a Florida win; that’s not like me in the least. I’m not saying Cinderella’s run is definitely over. I’m just wondering aloud if those out there are truly looking at the matchup, and I’m happy that many aren’t.

The Eagles’ advantage is their energy and athleticism. If you’ve only watched a small handful of Florida games this year, you know the Gators come out of the gate to start the second half with a speed of roughly half of what they normally play. In the third round, Florida saw a 21-point lead over Minnesota nearly evaporate. Once the Gators found their rhythm (a little too deep into the second half for my liking), they disposed of the Gophers and moved on. But there’s a red flag staring us all in the face and that’s that Florida could have lost that game and has lost others like it. I can’t say it will catch up with the Gators because it already has in the past. But it can’t happen against the little team that could. Can it?

Oh it can, but again that’s where planning and experience comes into play. The Gators need to make the game theirs early. They need to control the flow of the game and work to expose the Eagles’ weaknesses while not allowing Florida Gulf Coast to run for 40 minutes. Get the ball down low and allow Patric Young to control the basket. Get the ball to Erik Murphy and force his defender to come out to guard him. Florida can (and dare I say should) win this game and end Cinderella’s run.

The Gators have ended the dreams of more than one Cinderella in the past. Just one season ago, 15-seed Norfolk State upset 2-seed Missouri only to fall to the Gators in the next round by a staggering 34 points. In 2006, George Mason upset 6-seed Michigan State, 3-seed North Carolina, 7-seed Wichita State and 1-seed Connecticut on its way to the school’s first Final Four appearance. The Gators beat them by 15 in the national semifinals. Teams on rides like this tend to run out of stream. The wave they are riding dies and they become little more than a good story that had an expected end.

There are many out there that don’t want Florida Gulf Coast’s story to end just yet. The entire nation seems to be cheering for the Eagles. But there’s a group of us that aren’t. We are Florida fans and are fully behind the orange and blue. We’ve seen our own team win their first two games in the tourney by a combined 46 points. We know the Gators are the better team and hope they prove it on Friday night. We aren’t enamored by the hype and have even become angered by the ego. One week ago, we enjoyed Dunk City. Now, we’re glad the Gators are suddenly flying under the radar. Our team is the favorite that has become the underdog. And we’re all okay with that.

Florida Gators 3 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 2; Gators Claim Another Sweep Victim

The No. 1 Florida Gators baseball team defeated the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 3-2 on Sunday to complete the weekend series sweep. Needing only four hits to secure the victory, the Gators won their 13th-straight game to improve to 15-1.

The Gators found little offense on Sunday as stars Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino combined to go 0-for-6. They weren’t alone as four other Gators also couldn’t manage hits despite multiple at-bats. But the ones that did would do enough to give Florida another win.

Despite that limited offense, it was homeruns that won it for the Gators. Florida got a two-run shot from Casey Turgeon and a solo homerun from Taylor Gushue in the win. The rest was up to pitching and defense.

Daniel Gibson got the win – his first of the season – in relief of starting pitching Jonathon Crawford. The save went to Austin Maddox – his fifth of 2012.

The Gators have the day off on Monday before jumping back into action on Tuesday against rival Florida State.

Florida Gators 8 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 3; Fast Start Secures Another Win

The No. 1 Florida Gators wasted little time on Saturday as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Those four runs would end up being enough as the Gators defeated the Eagles 8-3. The win was Florida’s 12th in a row and helped the Gators improve to 12-1.

The Gators were led by junior starting pitcher Brian Johnson who got the win to improve to 2-0 on the season. Johnson struck out six over 6.0 innings and despite giving up three runs, got the victory. Senior Greg Larson and sophomore Daniel Gibson combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief.

The bottom of the first inning didn’t go exactly as the Eagles had hoped as the Gators took advantage of several pitching mistakes. Florida loaded the bases without needing a single hit before FCG was able to record the first out. From there the runs started coming.

The Gators and Eagles face off one final time on Sunday at 1:00 PM. Sophomore Jonathon Crawford will start for Florida and the game can be seen live on Sun Sports.

Florida Gators 4 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 2; Give Mike Zunino The MVP Already

Mike Zunino’s current run of great performances is reaching a ridiculous level. On Friday night, the junior hit two more homeruns and drove in all four runs to help the No. 1 Florida Gators defeat the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 4-2.

For the night, Zunino went 2-for-4, keeping his amazing start to the 2012 season going. He now leads the team with a batting average of .440 and also tops the team in every major offensive category. Zunino’s play will be key for the Gators as they head into SEC play next week.

No other Gator drove in any runs on Friday and only one other – Preston Tucker – had multiple hits like Zunino. But the extra offense wasn’t needed as Florida pitchers only allowed FCG to cross the plate twice. Steven Rodriguez got the win in relief of starter Hudson Randall and Austin Maddox closed it out for his fourth save.

With the victory, the Gators improve to 13-1 and have won 11 straight. Florida faces FCG again on Saturday in game two of the three-game series.

Baseball Series Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles – March 9-11, 2012

The perfect time of year to spend the day outside taking in some baseball. Well, college baseball; we don’t do the professional kind too well around here. The No. 1 Florida Gators host the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night in Gainesville.

The Facts

Opponent: Florida Gulf Coast Eagles
When: Fri., Mar. 9 – 7:00 PM, Sat., Mar. 10 – 4:00 PM, Sun., Mar. 11 – 1:00 PM
Where: Gainesville, FL
Broadcast: Sun Sports (Game 3), GatorVision (Game 3)
Records: Florida: 12-1, FGC: 6-5
Rankings: Florida: 1, FGC: NR
Current Streak: Florida: W10, FGC: W1

The Preview

If you wanted offense from the Gators this season, you got it and then some. So far this week, Florida has out-scored its opponents 31-3. That’s not a typo; the Gators recently won games 16-1 and 15-2. No, the rules haven’t changed; you still get one point for every run scored.

The offensive explosion should continue this weekend against Florida Gulf Coast. And there’s no reason to think the Gators can’t keep this going beyond that heading into SEC play. The bats are sure to cool down from time to time, but this team really is this talented, and not just at the plate. Florida’s pitching has contributed mightily to the season thus far and will continue to.

The series starts on Friday night. If your in Gainesville or somewhere near it, try to catch a game or three.

Baseball previews are sponsored by Seattle Mariners’ minor league pitcher Ben Versnik and Advocare – a world-class nurtrition company specializing in health and wellness, weight management, vibrant energy and sports performance.

Florida Gators Athletics Schedule: September 5-11, 2011

A little late, but still in road trip catchup mode. One of the events below already occurred, but there are plenty more to come this week. Florida football continues its season and plenty of other sports are in action. Recaps of all we missed will be coming soon. Great time of year to cheer for the Gators with so many of the athletic teams in action. And as we’ve said before, it doesn’t hurt that they’re all pretty darn good.
Monday, September 5

Volleyball – Iowa State – Gainesville, FL – Sun Sports, GatorVision, Sportsradio 850 – 2:00pm
Friday, September 9
Women’s Cross Country – South Florida Invitational – Tampa, FL
Men’s Cross Country – South Florida Invitational – Tampa, FL
Soccer – FSU – Gainesville, FL – GatorVision, Sportsradio 850 – 7:00pm
Volleyball – Texas (NIKE Big Four Classic) Palo Alto, CA – GatorZone – 11:00pm

Saturday, September 10

Volleyball – Penn State or Stanford (Campus USA Credit Union Invite) – Palo Alto, CA – GatorZone
Football – UAB – Gainesville, FL – FSN, Sirius 220, XM 199 – 7:00pm

Sunday, September 11

Women’s Golf – Cougar Classic – Charleston, SC
Soccer – Florida Gulf Coast – Gainesville, FL – GatorVision, Sportsradio 850 – 2:00pm

You can check out all past and future schedules at GatorZone, of course, and even see who else is playing in all those various tournaments, challenges and invites.