Florida Gators 61 – Alabama Crimson Tide 51: Gators Advance to SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced to the SEC Tournament finals after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 61-51 on Saturday. The Gators needed a second-half comeback sparked by senior guard Kenny Boynton to pull past the Tide, but were able to do so in fine fashion. Florida will face either the Ole Miss Rebels or Vanderbilt Commodores for the conference championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

Boynton scored all 16 of his points in a six-minute span in the second half. His sudden burst of offense turned the tide on the (sorry about this) Tide. Suddenly, a 10-point Bama lead became a 10-point Florida win. Struggling mightily in recent weeks, Boynton saw his fortunes change. He finished the day shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-6 from behind the arc. Despite only finding the basket during those six minutes, Boynton was the Gators leading scorer.

Senior guard Mike Rosario and junior center Patric Young joined Boynton with double-digit scoring. The Gators, as a team, didn’t shoot nearly as well as they did just one day earlier in the win over LSU, but it was enough to advance. While the Tide put enough pressure on the Gators to hold on to a solid lead for a good portion of the game, they just couldn’t keep it going. During the final 15 minutes of the game, Florida showed just how good they can be. The Gators outscored the Tide 34-14 over that span, which included a 15-0 run at one point.

Head coach Billy Donovan now finds his squad playing for the SEC championship. Already having taken home the regular season title, the Gators want the tournament trophy. If Florida can continue their run and put together a third-straight impressive victory, the NCAA Tournament selection committee will take notice and reward the Gators. There’s just one more game to make an impression. Only Ole Miss or Vandy stand in the way.

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 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.

Plenty On the Line In The Florida Gators Final Home Game

The No. 11/9 Florida Gators men’s basketball team will play its final home game of the 2012-13 regular season on Wednesday. The Gators will host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a matchup with a number of storylines.

Erik Murphy - Florida Gators

First and foremost, Florida can secure the program’s fourth outright SEC title with a victory over Vandy. Not only will it be the fourth for the program, it will be the second for the current seniors. If the Gators get the win, the seniors will be the first class to ever win two outright conference titles.

Not far behind, but less meaningful if we’re being honest, is a chance to go undefeated at home during the regular season for the first time since 2006-07. Not losing at home doesn’t mean much toward the Gators chances at a national championship, but the last Florida team to do so just happened to take home the trophy. Being unbeatable in your own building is a matter of pride though. It’s not something Florida will want to slip out of their hands in their final game. And more wins never hurt.

Finally, it’s senior night for two that have been there since the beginning—guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy—and one that has raised his level of playing during his final season—guard Mike Rosario. While Boynton won’t do it in this game, he still has an outside shot at becoming the Gators all-time leading scorer. Not bad for a player many expected to be long gone at this point.

For Boynton, it’s a chance to go out on a high note; to play his final game in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and leave the building with another victory. With 150 points to go and a career-low scoring average of 12.5 points per game, it seems unlikely Boynton will break the record, but he’s playing for more. Boynton joined the Gators following the back-to-back NIT seasons (ugh) and hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since. Two Elite Eight appearances is nothing to scoff at, but he’ll want more this final season.

Murphy has developed into a threat from anywhere on the court. After nearly ruining his college basketball career, Murphy was allowed to remain in the program by head coach Billy Donovan and became the player he is today. Vital to Florida’s success, Murphy has career highs across the board this season—minutes, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, scoring average, you name it.

Then there’s Rosario. A transfer from Rutgers, Rosario was expected to bring his heightened scoring ability to the Gators. After a rocky first two seasons (he sat out after transferring), Rosario seems to have brought it together. He hasn’t reached the scoring numbers he put up while with the Scarlet Knights, but Rosario is the Gators leading scorer and a danger to opposing defenses when he has the ball.

Wednesday won’t mark the end of the 2012-13 season, but it does mean more than just another game to the Gators. Florida wants that SEC title. The Gators want to hold on to that unblemished home record. And the seniors want to walk out of the O’Connell Center victorious.

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.

Florida Gators Vs. Kansas State Wildcats: We Got Ourselves A Bit Of A Challenge Ahead

Not many better ways I can think to kick off a long vacation than with a premier college basketball matchup. Okay, so a premier college football matchup would rank slightly higher on my list, but the Florida Gators heading to Kansas City, MO to face the Kansas State Wildcats will more than do.

Mike Rosario - Florida Gators

On Saturday night, the Gators and Wildcats will play in what is being referred to as a neutral site game. I would laugh at that, but the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is widely considered a neutral site as well. Although, Google Maps would tell us Gainesville, FL is 1,133 miles from Kansas City, while Manhattan, KS is a mere 121 miles away. Still, neither of these teams calls K.C. its home, so neutral it is. And that’s more than enough about a neutral site that might not really be a neutral site.

We have officially entered the time of year when we start our shift from college football to college basketball. The Gators’ football team last played on November 24 (WOO HOO!!! WE BEAT FLORIDA STATE!!!) (Sorry.) (No, I’m not.). The basketball team has played four times since then and will play twice more before the football team takes the field in the Sugar Bowl. That would indicate our focus had already begun to shift and, yes, it has.

The 8-1 Gators come into Saturday’s game ranked No. 8/9. The Wildcats aren’t ranked, but at 8-2 aren’t far from the top of the Big 12 standings. Both teams have a lot to play for. For Florida, a chance to get a win against a solid opponent and put the loss to No. 4/5 Arizona even further behind them. For Kansas State, a chance to knock of a team that may be among this season’s elite. Just one week ago, the Gators were a top-5 team. They may get there again and because of that it would be a monumental win for the Wildcats early in the 2012-13 season.

But it would also be a telling one for the Gators. Florida had dominated opponents before it lost to ‘Zona. A 13-point victory over UCF was as close as anyone had come. After the loss to the other Wildcats, the Gators rebounded nicely with a big win over Southeastern Louisiana, but how much did that game teach us? Or better yet, how much did it teach Florida? Well, it taught them that when senior guard Kenny Boynton is off, someone needs to step up. That someone was fellow senior guard Mike Rosario. If Boynton finds himself off his game again, who will it be against the Wildcats.

Enjoy this one; the Gators only play twice over the next 15 days. It’s one of only three left before SEC play begins. The Gators need a win more than it might seem.

Florida Gators 82 – Southeastern Louisiana Lions 43; Gators Rebound With Rout Of Lions

Losses are bad; wins are good. Seems simple enough. The Florida Gators–coming off a (learning?) loss–got back in the win column with an 82-43 victory over the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.

Patric Young - Florida Gators

Florida was led by senior guard Mike Rosario who paced the Gators in almost every offensive category. Rosario had 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and went 4-for-8 from behind the arc. For good measure, he also tied for the team lead with six rebounds. Rosario did all of this while also leading Florida with 31 minutes on the court. The senior has experienced his ups and downs since becoming a Gator, but head coach Billy Donovan thinks Rosario has finally figured it all out.

“I think he has really conformed, he’s worked and I think it’s shown in his play. He’s much, much more disciplined, much more responsible, much more accountable. I feel like I know what I’m getting from him from day to day. That’s the most difficult thing to deal with as a coach, when you have a talented player and you don’t know who’s showing up and who you’re going to get from day to day. He’s kind of put it together, become more responsible, reliable and accountable, and because of it, I think he’s playing well.” – Billy Donovan, Florida Gators Head Coach

Freshman guard Michael Frazier II and junior center Patric Young joined Rosario as double-digit scorers. Senior guard Kenny Boynton was perhaps the only Gator that truly struggled. Boynton finished with seven points on 1-for-7 shooting. All seven of the senior’s shots were three-point attempts. Boynton has been off his game lately, following a 2-for-10 outing in the loss to the Arizona Wildcats.

Next up, the Gators travel to Kansas State on Saturday.

Florida Gators 71 – Virginia Cavaliers 45; Gators Advance To Face A Surprise Opponent

We’ll try our best to make this about the Florida Gators’ 71-45 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but something that delayed this recap being written is occupying all of our minds. With the Gators win, most expected them to face the Missouri Tigers in the third round – a No. 2 seed by the way – but that won’t happen after they were upset by the Norfolk State Spartans. But let’s focus on the victory.

Over the past few days, Gator Nation has fallen in love with sophomore forward Casey Prather. First, there was this. Now, there is his performance in the win over the Cavaliers. All Prather did on Friday was play 22 minutes, make six of his seven field goal attempts, and score 14 points. Those were all season highs and the points were a career high. Prather didn’t have to be the hero – the Gators did win by 26 after all – but he was regardless. In mere days, the legend of Casey Prather has been born.

Playing in his first tourney game, freshman guard Bradley Beal was impressive. Beal had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds and had his shot while the other guards didn’t. We hate to have to bring it up again, but with the exception of Beal, shots from other guards were hit or miss with miss coming up more often than not. Erving Walker: 3-for-8. Kenny Boynton: 3-for-10. Mike Rosario: 1-for-4. Patric Young, Prather and Beal more than made up for it, but IT MUST CHANGE! Sorry, it’s Friday evening and that high of winning and then experiencing an upset is still there, so we’re all easily excitable.

On to the weekend and, come Sunday, game two.

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. 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.