Florida Gators 67 – Tennessee Volunteers 58: Second Half Surge Leads to Victory, Again

Florida has this second half thing down. Tight first halves, followed by second halves during which the Gators march to victory after victory are becoming the norm. Florida did so again on Tuesday night, defeating Tennessee 67-58 in Knoxville.

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida Gators

The Volunteers took a 34-33 lead into the locker room thanks to 62.5 percent shooting. Then the Gators tightened the reigns and pressed on defense. Tennessee’s hot shooting night quickly went sour as the Vols managed to shoot just 29.2 percent in the second half.

“…I thought we pressed predominantly most of the second half. We didn’t turn them over a lot, but it was just disruptive in terms of flow,” said Florida head coach Billy Donovan.

The victory was the Gators’ 16th in a row and helped Florida improve its record to 22-2 (11-0 SEC). The Vols fell to 15-9 (6-5 SEC). The Gators have just seven regular season game remaining before the SEC Tournament. Up next for No. 3 Florida is a visit to No. 14 Kentucky.

The Gators relied heavily on a seven-man rotation throughout with all five starters and two reserves—sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith and freshman guard Kasey Hill—all seeing at least 20 minutes on the court. Freshman forward Chris Walker was able to get in for the third-straight game, but only saw five minutes of action.

Florida was led by senior guard Scottie Wilbekin who had 21 points and six assists. Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II was the only other player to score in double digits with 11. The Gators managed to pull off the victory despite shooting just 36.2 percent from the floor.

Florida Gators 68 – Missouri Tigers 58: Gators Victorious in Chris Walker’s Debut

A strong second half powered Florida to it’s 14th-straight win. The Gators defeated Missouri 68-58 in freshman forward Chris Walker’s orange and blue debut.

Chris Walker, Florida Gators

As expected, Walker was brought along slowly. The freshman was on the court for just seven minutes, but played well enough that he will be sure to be seeing more time soon. Walker finished with four points on two dunks that brought the crowd in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to its feet. Walker also added two defensive rebounds, two blocks, and two personal fouls.

“Just happy he can finally get on the floor and contribute a little bit,” head coach Billy Donovan said.

While all eyes were on Walker, Florida’s best performances of the night came from guards Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II. Wilbekin played 36 of 40 minutes and finished with 19 points after going 13-of-16 from the free-throw line. Frazier II added four three-pointers and finished with 14 points.

While freshman guard Kasey Hill has yet to find his scoring touch since returning from injury in December, he showed marked improvement in distributing the ball. Hill finished with six assists to only one turnover in 21 minutes on the court.

In addition to its 14th-consecutive win, the Gators won their 28th in a row at home. That’s a school record Florida hopes to keep building on.

At 20-2 (9-0 SEC), the No. 3 Gators are two games ahead of 17-5 (7-2 SEC) Kentucky. With Walker added to the mix, Florida has a strong chance of holding on to that lead over the No. 18 Wildcats. The two teams face each other for the first time on February 15, but first up for the Gators is 9-12 (3-5 SEC) Alabama on Saturday, February 8.

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.

Guess The Ranking: After Another 1-1 Week, Where Do The Florida Gators End Up?

For the third consecutive week, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team went 1-1. After a big win over the Vanderbilt Commodores earlier in the week, the Gators closed it out with a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. Florida–No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll heading into the week–may have pushed themselves out of the top 10 with the loss. Regardless, the Gators will enter the SEC Tournament as the conference’s top seed.

Florida Gators - Kentucky Wildcats

How the top 10 fared:

    • No. 1 Gonzaga – 1-0 – Unranked Win
    • No. 2 Indiana – 1-0 – No. 14/13 Loss*
    • No. 3/4 Duke – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 4/3 Kansas – 1-1 – Unranked Win, Unranked Loss
    • No. 5 Georgetown – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, No. 17/16 Win
    • No. 6/7 Miami – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, Unranked Win
    • No. 7/8 Michigan – 1-0 – Unranked Win*
    • No. 8/6 Louisville – 2-0 – Unranked Win, No. 24 Win
    • No. 9/10 Kansas State – 1-1 – Unranked Win, No. 13/14 Loss
    • No. 10/12 Michigan State – 1-0 – No. 22/21 Win**
    • No. 11/9 Florida – 1-1 – Unranked Win, Unranked Loss

* No. 7/8 Michigan hosts No. 2 Indiana on Sunday, March 10.
** No. 12/12 Michigan State hosts Northwestern on Sunday, March 10.

To the rundown:

    • We can run through the teams that were undefeated during the week quickly. Florida does not have a chance of passing Gonzaga, Duke or Louisville. Those teams are done for the week and went a combined 5-0.
    • Still without a loss, but with games on Sunday are Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. The Hoosiers are safe regardless of the outcome of their games against the Wolverines. The Wolverines should be too because even if they lose the matchup it will be a quality loss to the nation’s No. 2 team. Michigan State is the wild card yet again. Already three spots lower than the Gators in the Coaches Poll, a loss to Northwestern would hurt the Spartans chances of jumping the Gators. However, that’s unlikely as Michigan State is expected to win big.
    • Despite the fact that they all went 1-1, Kansas, Georgetown and Miami are safe because Florida did the same. So should be Kansas State. The Gators hold a one-spot lead on the Wildcats in the Coaches Poll, but Kansas State’s loss looks better than Florida’s. We could see the Wildcats ranked higher in both polls come Monday.
    • Just behind the Gators in the polls, both New Mexico and Oklahoma State went 1-1. Florida could be safe, but the Cowboys do have a quality win over Kansas State to consider. Ohio State could be the problem. The No. 14/13 Buckeyes already have a win this week over No. 2 Indiana. A win over Illinois on Sunday could find Ohio State ranked higher than Florida. (UGH inducing, I know.)

It could all come down to that Big Ten team we love to hate–the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Gators have a chance to remain in the top 10 based on what occurred around them, but if the Buckeyes win again on Sunday, it’s a certainty that Florida falls further. Then again, after a 1-1 record last week, Florida fell three spots in both polls. The Gators fell three spots in the AP Poll and two in the Coaches the week before that. It might not matter what Ohio State does, Florida could be outside of the top 10 looking in anyway. Your thoughts?

Where do you rank the Florida Gators?

    Top 7 (33%, 3 Votes)

    No. 12 (33%, 3 Votes)

    No. 13 or Lower (33%, 3 Votes)

    No. 8 (0%, 0 Votes)

    No. 9 (0%, 0 Votes)

    No. 10 (0%, 0 Votes)

    No. 11 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Kentucky Wildcats 61 – Florida Gators 57: Gators Fall In Regular Season Finale

The Florida Gators will head into the SEC Tournament without the momentum they were hoping to carry. After two big conference wins, the Gators fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 61-57 in the regular season finale. The loss drops Florida to 24-6 (14-4 SEC), while Kentucky improves to 21-11 (11-6 SEC). The Gators hadn’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007 and will have to wait another season for a chance to break that streak.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

The game was one of streaks as both teams jumped out to big leads only to have the other fight back. It was good for Florida at times and bad at others. Unfortunately, the last of the bad times encompassed the final 7:36 of the game. With that much time left on the clock, the Gators went up 57-50. Florida would not score again. Yes, you read that correctly. The Gators would not add a single point to their total for the final seven minutes and 36 seconds. In that time, the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to close out the regular season on the SEC champs.

The Gators shot better than the Wildcats across the board, but it wasn’t enough. Senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but they weren’t helped by the other Florida starters. Senior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 8-for-24 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the three-point line. None of the three were able to get into double digits in scoring.

While Kentucky didn’t shoot as well as Florida overall, they did when it mattered. The Wildcats only went 13-for-22 from the free-throw line on the day, but were 3-for-4 in the final 25 seconds. The Gators struggled to find a good look at the basket as time was running down as Kentucky kept up the defensive pressure and didn’t allow Florida anything easy.

The Gators regular season has to be considered a successful one, but ultimately it’s all about how you finish. Florida is 3-3 over the final six games and all three losses came to unranked opponents. While the Gators do have quality wins, the selection committee will be taking recent play into account and the end to the season will hurt Florida when it comes to seeding.

Florida has a chance to shake off the Kentucky loss before the SEC Tournament, but that will be here soon. The Gators should find themselves in the conference tourney title game, but they have to get there first. The regular season is over. It’s tourney time. There’s no excuse for losses of any kind.

Florida Gators Vs. Kentucky Wildcats: Gators Look To Close Out Regular Season With Win Over SEC Rival

We’ve made it to the end of the regular season. On Saturday, the Florida Gators will close out the regular season with a trip to Kentucky to take on the defending national champion Wildcats. We’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth mentioning again, Kentucky is not the Kentucky of last season. The players that won that title are in the NBA for the most part and this is a very different Wildcat squad the Gators will face.

Patric Young - Florida Gators

Florida, on the other hand, is not all that different from last season’s Elite Eight squad. Gone are Bradley Beal–drafted immediately following two former Wildcats–and Erving Walker, but the other major parts from last season’s roster are all intact. Even with Beal and Walker, the Gators went 0-3 against the Wildcats during the 2011-12 season. This season, without the two former starters, Florida is 1-0 with a 17-point victory over the new look Kentucky squad. A Kentucky squad desperately needing a win if they even hope to sniff the NCAA Tournament.

The 24-5 (14-3 SEC) Gators are in regardless of what happens. They could lose to the Wildcats and immediately exit the SEC Tournament with a loss in their first game and still make it to the big dance. Kentucky, though, needs help. At 20-10 (11-6 SEC), the Wildcats needed a strong finish to the regular season. Instead, they have gone 3-4 over the last seven, including bad losses to Arkansas and Georgia in their last two. Both teams want a victory, but one team needs it infinitely more.

That shouldn’t mean much though. The Gators won’t roll over just because they don’t necessarily need the win. A victory would help them secure a higher seed, but so would multiple wins in the conference tournament and an SEC tourney crown. Defeating this season’s Kentucky team doesn’t have the impact that beating last season’s would have, but going into Lexington and getting a win is still something to remember.

The Gators haven’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007 and are 0-2 in their last two SEC road games. Florida plays great at home, but has been shaky on the road in conference play. This is the time of the season to get over that. The Gators must play as they know they can. They defeated Kentucky once this season, and by a good margin, and should do so again. There’s no reason for a letdown, road game or not. Florida rebounded from a loss to Tennessee with a thin lineup to win two in a row in solid fashion. That momentum must be carried into Lexington and beyond. The regular season will be over in a few short hours, but the Gators shouldn’t look to the SEC and NCAA tournaments until that point.

Florida Gators 66 – Vanderbilt Commodores 40: Gators Win SEC Title, Finish Unbeaten At Home

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team claimed the program’s fourth outright SEC title on Wednesday night with a 66-40 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores. A conference title was the ultimate goal, but the Gators also capped off an undefeated home record with the win. The last Florida team to do that–2006-07–just happened to win a national championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators put the game out of reach early, jumping out to a nine-point lead midway through the first half. The outcome was never truly in question after it took the Commodores nearly 16 minutes of game time to reach the double-digit mark in points. Florida would go on to lead by 10 at the half and extend that lead in the second frame.

In addition to the SEC title and undefeated home record, Florida claimed the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. The Gators still travel to Kentucky to close out the regular season against the Wildcats, but their place in the SEC tourney is already known.

The three Florida seniors went out on a high note. Guard Kenny Boynton led all Gators scorers with 15 points while forward Erik Murphy added 10 and guard Mike Rosario had five. It surely was a great feeling for all three to get a big victory and win a regular season conference title in their last game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida still has that final hurdle–the regular season finale at Kentucky–to get over before thinking too much about the tournaments ahead, but they will both be here soon enough. This is the time of season to stay focused and build on wins like Wednesday night’s.

Congrats to the Gators and the senior class on an impressive victory.

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.

2013 Football Recruiting: Florida Gators Part Ways With LB James Hearns

The Florida Gators have cut ties with linebacker and now former commit James Hearns. Hearns – a four-star LB from Lincoln (Tallahassee, FL) was one of the first members of the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class. Florida has pulled his scholarship offer due to concerns over whether Hearns will be able to qualify academically.

James Hearns

Hearns expressed no ill will toward the Gators, simply stating that it was time for both sides to move on. The Florida coaching staff was concerned with his academic record and Hearns was hoping to look at a few other schools before National Signing Day as it is. He got the call from newly appointed defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, letting him know that he wouldn’t be a part of the Gators’ class.

Hearns is currently visiting a Florida SEC rival–Kentucky–and seems to favor the Wildcats. He’s also considering visiting either Houston, South Carolina or Washington over the last weekend before NSD.

Durkin and head coach Will Muschamp will now turn their focus to Mainland (Daytona Beach, FL) linebacker Quinton Powell. Powell, you will remember, was also a member of Florida’s 2013 class until recently.