Florida Gators 79 – Northwestern State Demons 47: Gators Open NCAA Tournament with Big Win

The Florida Gators overcame a flurry of energy from the Northwestern State Demons to cruise to a 79-47 victory in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Gators advance to the third round where they’ll face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday, March 24 at 6:10 PM.

Florida Gators

The Demons gave the Gators all they had for the first 20 minutes, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough. Northwestern State employed a line-change strategy that kept the Gators on their toes early and kept the game close. But Florida’s talent and ability to withstand Northwestern State’s 10-man rotation, helped the Gators pull away in the second half. And it was definitely a story that went that way–a tale of two halves to an extent. Florida took a 40-32 lead into the locker room at the break, but blew that wide open outscoring the Demons 39-15 in the second half.

The Gators took advantage of a shooting advantage throughout the second half. For the game, Florida made 47.5% of it’s attempts from the floor while holding Northwestern State to only 36%. Early, it appeared as if the Gators would fight for a victory like many other of the second round winners (we won’t even get into those that lost–HI GEORGETOWN!). Once Florida found it’s grove though, it was over. The Demons had no answer to the Gators second-half onslaught and Florida easily advanced.

The stars for Florida were senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young. The two combined for 34 points on 14-for-21 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds. As usual, as went Murphy, so went the Gators. The senior has scored 15 or more points in 13 games this season and Florida is 11-2 in those contests. And going one better, the Gators are 12-1 when he shoots 60% or better from the field. In that one loss (to Kansas State who bowed out of the tourney in a second-round upset), he shot exactly 60%. When he goes over that number, Florida is undefeated. So in summary, get Murphy open and let him shoot.

The Gators move on to the Gophers, who didn’t just upset UCLA on Saturday, but embarrassed the Bruins. It could be another case for getting the ball to Murphy and Young. Minnesota has only two players taller than 6’8″ on their roster and those two combine for only 20.5 minutes per game. Murphy and Young combine for 53.3. It could be another good one for the big men depending on what strategy head coach Billy Donovan employs.

On to the next round and a chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Florida Gators vs. Ole Miss Rebels: SEC Championship on the Line

The Florida Gators appear to have found their rhythm. After a pedestrian finish to the 2012-13 regular season, the Gators have turned up the intensity and marched to back-to-back double-digit victories. Florida now finds itself in the SEC Tournament championship game against the Ole Miss Rebels. A win means the double–regular season and conference tourney titles.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

The 26-6 Gators are looking for win number 27, which would break a tie with the 2011-12 team for the fifth most under head coach Billy Donovan. Of the four Donovan-coached Florida teams that won more games, two won the national title, one lost in the championship game, and the other exited the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight. We don’t know how the story will end for this season’s team, but it’s safe to say they have become one of Donovan’s best.

Florida is peaking at the right time, but so is Ole Miss. The Rebels have won their last four and six of their last seven. And they’ve found a way to win the close ones. Two of their last four victories have been by four points or less.

These two teams have met once before during this season and both were ranked at the time. The Gators took a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime and held on to win 78-64. Florida’s big men were just too much for Ole Miss as senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds. Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson–one of the nation’s best scorers–did pour in 25 points, but he didn’t have much help from his teammates.

The Gators will look to contain Henderson, but may alternatively focus on the rest of the Ole Miss offense. Donovan’s Florida teams have had success in the past letting the star players of opponents be great while shutting down the rest of the roster. The first matchup between these two is one example as is the national championship game victory over Ohio State at the end of the 2006-07 season. Donovan’s plan allowed for Buckeyes star Greg Oden to dominate down low while focusing on the rest of the Buckeyes offense. While Mike Conley did add 20 points to Oden’s 25, no other starting Buckeye shot at even a 50% clip. Similar to the earlier win over the Rebels when senior forward Murphy Holloway had 15 points to go with Henderson’s 25, but did so on 5-for-16 shooting.

So don’t be surprised it Henderson gets his buckets, but the rest of the Ole Miss offense has trouble scoring. Donovan and the Gators know what talent Henderson brings and at times they may not be able to stop him, but if they can slow the rest of the Rebels roster, they could be taking a new trophy back to Gainesville.

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 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.

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 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 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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Florida Gators Video Of The Day: The Gator Grind – Day In The Life

It’s the summer break. While that doesn’t mean much besides warmer air and more annoying kids outside for all of you year-long workers, summer means more free time for students. We hope that you will be spending more time reading The Bull Gator, as I will be spending more time posting at it. That means it’s time for a new series at TBG. The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD for short) will feature, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. And if you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title.

So we’re no longer alone. We’re now in a world where not only do we, the Gators’ fans, blog about Gators’ sports, but the athletes do too. Yes, you heard that right. The Florida athletes now have a blog called The Gator Grind, which consists of 35 student-athletes/writers that post some of the many experiences of the life of a Gator.

In addition to their creative blog, they also produced this astounding video that’s supposed to represent the life of the Gator student-athletes.

In the video are: Patric Young, Megan Pak, Brian Howell, Taylor Travis, Haley Reeb, Jo Dragotta, Trey Burton, Sam Robey, Frankie Hammond, Jr., Michelle Moultrie, Zane Breakiron.

Pretty cool, huh? Does it help you appreciate the work these athletes are putting in on and off the field? What do you think about their blogging?

Florida Gators Video Of The Day: Patric Young’s Workout

It’s the summer break. While that doesn’t mean much besides warmer air and more annoying kids outside for all of you year-long workers, summer means more free time for students. We hope that you will be spending more time reading The Bull Gator, as I will be spending more time posting at it. That means it’s time for a new series at TBG. The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD for short) will feature, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. And if you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title.

Rest assured Florida fans, Patric Young is working his heart out this off-season and striving to get better. To do that, the Gators’ big man is apparently going through some tough workouts, though Young will claim there is no off-season.

What you’re about to see, according to Young, happens every Friday.

That looks a little tough. In fact, it didn’t go so well for Young the first time.

“It has been the hardest thing I’ve gone through in my life. The very first day, I (Big Strong, Beast, Manimal, Baby Dwight Howard) was on my knees by a trash can puking my guts out.” – Patric Young, Florida Gators Center/Forward

What did you think about the workout? What would it take for you to do that every week? Do you like what you’re seeing from Young and the Gators this off-season?