April 13, 2015

Rehired: Grant returns to Florida

GAINESVILLE -- While Billy Donovan’s name continues to swirl in NBA circles, Florida’s coach is busy putting the band back together. 

Less than 24 hours after Gators assistant Matt McCall took the head coaching job at UT-Chattanooga, Donovan hired longtime assistant and friend Anthony Grant to fill UF’s vacated position. 

Grant, a Miami native who starred at Miami Senior High, spent a dozen seasons as an assistant under Donovan, including 10 years (1996-2006) at Florida. The move also reunites Donovan, Grant and assistant Jon Pelphrey. 

“We're very excited to have Anthony back on our staff,” Donovan said in a statement.

“He's obviously familiar with our program, and he is an outstanding coach and recruiter, so he adds great value to our staff and our team.”

After Florida’s 2006 national title, Grant was hired by VCU and led the Rams to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons.

Following the 2009 season, Grant left VCU for Alabama, where he went 117-85 in six seasons but made the NCAA Tournament just once and was fired in March.

Grant is regarded as a relentless recruiter with strong ties to South Florida. He was credited with signing Miami Heat center and former Miami High standout Udonis Haslem. 

“I’m extremely appreciative of Coach Donovan extending the opportunity to me to return to the University of Florida,” Grant said. 

“It’s a great chance to return a place I love and have fond memories of, and I look forward to helping the staff build on the tradition and success that Coach Donovan has created.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

April 02, 2015

Donovan's contract extended but NBA rumors persist

GAINESVILLE -- Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan signed an amended, one-year contract extension through the 2020 season, the Gainesville Sun reported Wednesday

The contract -- signed in December -- pushes Donovan’s annual salary to $4 million, as he remains the sixth-highest paid coach in college basketball.   

The Gators are fresh of a disappointing 2014-15 season (16-17), missing the postseason for the first time since Donovan’s inaugural year at Florida. 

Still, Donovan, who turns 50 on May 30, has built Florida into a national powerhouse, winning a pair of NCAA Championships in 20 seasons in Gainesville. He’s led UF to four Final Fours, six SEC Championships and 14 NCAA Tournament appearances. 

According to the finalized deal -- initially agreed upon last summer -- Donovan’s bonus structure remains the same and his buyout is only $500,000. 

Meanwhile, the Donovan-to-NBA rumors won’t go away. Two weeks after reporting Donovan will “give renewed consideration” to the NBA, ESPN’s Marc Stein wrote Thursday that Donovan is now “looking to make the jump to the NBA more than ever before.”

Earlier Thursday morning, Louisville coach Rick Pitino -- Donovan’s former college coach and trusted mentor -- seemingly legitimized the rumors by bringing up Donovan's name on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike" during a conversation on college coaches transitioning to the NBA 

“I don't recommend it for college coaches to do that unless they know what it's all about," Pitino said. 

"I take someone like Billy Donovan. I think Billy has looked at it, I think he has an urge to coach in the NBA -- a strong desire to coach in the NBA -- and would like to try it, very similar to Brad Stevens, who is doing a wonderful job with the Celtics. I think people like that with that type of personality will do very well."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 27, 2015

Reports: Frazier to skip senior year, enter NBA Draft

GAINESVILLE -- Florida sharpshooter Michael Frazier II declared for the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports. 

The 6-foot-4 guard opted (somewhat surprisingly) to bypass his senior season after a junior campaign marred by injuries and inconsistencies. 

Neither Frazier or Florida has confirmed the purported decision, but Frazier’s father spoke with the Orlando Sentinel and said the report is true. 

********** UPDATE **********

Frazier tweeted his official decision late Friday afternoon. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 5.55.52 PM

Frazier, a two-year starter, averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds this past season, but his shooting numbers dipped as defenses keyed on UF’s top scoring option.

He labored through an ankle injury, missing seven games and he struggled rounding out other aspects of his game.

Frazier shot a SEC-best 47 and 45 percent from behind the arc as a freshman and sophomore, but he hit 38 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2014-15. 

As a sophomore, Frazier nailed a school-record 118 treys during Florida’s run to the Final Four. He is the first underclassmen to leave UF since Bradley Beal in 2012-13. 

Frazier is considered a fringe draftable prospect, ranking just 84th on ESPN Chad Ford’s Top 100. 

“Frazier began drawing serious interest from NBA scouts during his sophomore season when he averaged 12 points per game and shot a terrific 45 percent from three,” Ford wrote.

“However, his game stagnated a bit as a junior. His scoring averaged dipped slightly and his 3-point percentage slipped to 38 percent. Not terrible numbers, but not the normal progression scouts typically want to see either. He lacks elite size for his position and is a bit one-dimensional, but his 3-point shooting will get him serious looks in the second round. Look for him to land in the 40 to 60 range in the draft.”

Frazier may be simply the first shoe to drop, too, as junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith and sophomore big-man Chris Walker could go pro as well. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 24, 2015

Basketball weight room set for $1.2 million expansion

GAINESVILLE -- The weight room at Florida’s basketball facility will be upgraded, the University Athletic Associated announced Tuesday. 

The weight room -- used by both basketball teams and the men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams --will undergo a $1.2 million renovation and nearly double in size (1,525 square feet to 3,056 square feet). 

The project, which includes expanded office space and a nutritional bar, is scheduled to start in April and finish sometime in August. 

“This project will enhance the top-tier training space for our men’s and women’s programs in that facility,” UAA executive associate director for internal affairs Chip Howard said in a release. 

“When completed, it’ll ensure our coaches can continue to recruit, retain and empower our student-athletes to perform at the highest possible level.” 

Last month, UF athletics director Jeremy Foley indicated coach Billy Donovan was satisfied with Florida’s facilities but that the weight room was likely to be bulked up in the near future. 

“I think the thing people don’t understand is you don’t have coaches banging on doors -- Billy Donovan he’s worried about coaching and recruiting,” Foley explained. 

“It’s just you walk in that facility and it has served us well for a while, but you have four teams lifting in there, well really more. You have men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s basketball. It’s just not big enough right now. So we are going to expand that and maybe even start that this summer.”

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 21, 2015

Report: Donovan to give NBA "renewed consideration"

GAINESVILLE -- Could Billy Donovan leave Florida?

Maybe. 

According to ESPN’s insider Marc Stein, “there’s a growing sense in NBA coaching circles that Florida’s Billy Donovan will give renewed consideration to making a move to the pros.”

The Gators missed the postseason for the first time in 17 years, finishing a disappointing 16-17 after opening the season ranked seventh nationally. 

The rumors -- in a vacuum -- are not shocking. I’ve heard similar whispers, too. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 6.23.18 PM

However, Donovan leaving the Gators is possible but unlikely.

Stein listed Orlando as a potential fit, while Oklahoma City (Scott Brooks has underwhelmed) and Chicago (Tom Thibodeau has clashed with management) could be openings to watch as well.

Should the Bulls make a move though, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg is considered the frontrunner for the opening. 

Donovan infamously accepted the Magic job in 2007 before a change of heart quickly brought him back to UF. The future Hall of Fame coach won his 500th game during the 2014-15 season, and has led the Gators to a pair of national titles, six SEC Championships and 14 NCAA Tournament appearances.  

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 10, 2015

Finney-Smith, Robinson earn All-SEC accolades

GAINESVILLE -- Florida forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and freshman Devin Robinson each earned 2015 All-SEC honors, the league announced Tuesday. 

Finney-Smith, the Gators' top all-around player and the 2014 SEC Sixth Man of the Year, was named to the All-SEC second team. 

The redshirt junior leads the Gators in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounds (6.0 rpg). 

Meanwhile, Robinson garnered All-Freshman honors, averaging 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds this season. The 6-foot-9 swingman started 17 games and scored in double-figures in five of his last eight appearances. 

No. 1 Kentucky swept the majority of the postseason awards, as John Calipari took home SEC Coach of the Year, center Willie Cauley-Stein earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns was tabbed the SEC’s Freshman of the Year and freshman guard Devin Booker was voted the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year.  

In a bit of a surprise, Arkansas’ Bobby Portis was named the league’s Player of the Year. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 09, 2015

SEC Tourney: UF-Alabama showdown set for Thursday

GAINESVILLE -- Last March, Florida entered the SEC Tournament as the crown jewel of college hoops.

Led by a quartet of seniors, the Gators -- undefeated in conference play -- swept the tournament and became the first team in league history to go 21-0. 

A year later, UF is desperate to simply extend a disappointing season. 

The Gators landed the No. 8 seed in this week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, with a 1 p.m. Thursday tipoff against 9th-seeded Alabama (18-13, 8-10 SEC).  

The winner earns the pleasure of facing unbeaten Kentucky in the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.39.59 PM

Florida (15-16, 8-10 SEC) lost 67-50 at No. 1 UK over the weekend, and may miss the postseason for the first time since Billy Donovan’s inaugural season in Gainesville in 1996-97.  

Donovan is 9-0 all-time against Alabama coach Anthony Grant, a longtime lieutenant under Donovan at Florida. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 06, 2015

Frazier available against top-ranked Kentucky

GAINESVILLE -- Florida faces No. 1 Kentucky as a 15.5-point underdog Saturday (2 p.m., CBS), but the Gators should be boosted by the return of leading scorer Michael Frazier II. 

UF coach Billy Donovan is optimistic the junior sharpshooter will play after missing seven games with a  high-ankle sprain. 

Still, Donovan is unsure how much Frazier will contribute. 

“How much he will play, I don’t know,” Donovan said Friday. 

"I wasn’t really looking at his timing, shooting, rhythm those kinds of things. I was more interested in seeing how he was moving, and I thought he moved pretty well in practice.” 

Frazier has missed seven straight game since sustaining the injury in a Feb. 7 loss against Kentucky. Frazier scored 10 points in the first half versus the Wildcats before exiting the 68-61 defeat early in the second half. 

The Gators (15-15, 8-9 SEC) have won two straight conference games for the first time since late January, but they’ve really missed Frazier’s ability to stretch the defense and space the floor. 

Despite an inconsistent season, Frazier leads UF in scoring (13.2 ppg) and is shooting 40.1 percent from behind the arc. 

The Gators were 3-4 without Frazier in the lineup. 

“How much we’ll be about to get out of him, if anything, I don’t know,” Donovan said. 

“I’m going into the game with him available, but I think for me to go in there and say, ‘Ok, he’s back right now. He’s going to play 30 minutes and he’s going to be back where he was before he got injured,’ I think would be a mistake. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

March 04, 2015

Florida holds on, knocks off Texas A&M in home finale

GAINESVILLE -- Florida squeaked past Texas A&M 66-62 in excruciating fashion, nearly coughing up a 14-point lead in the final 1:58 at home Tuesday evening.

But Eli Carter sank two clutch free throws with 13.4 seconds remaining, sending the Gators to their second consecutive conference victory and a .500 record on the year. 

The Gators (15-15, 8-9) bullied the Aggies -- a potential NCAA Tournament team at 20-9 -- for much of the game before misadventures at the charity stripe nearly proved disastrous. Florida hit just 5-of-14 free throws down the stretch until Carter ended a serious drought. 

UF shot a woeful 52.8 percent (20-for-38) from the free throw line on the night, turning a potential rout in a nail-biter as Texas A&M scored on eight of 11 possessions. 

“It’s happened to our team a lot this season,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re not a mentally strong team. ... I don’t think there’s any excuse for that.” 

Still, the Gators survived thanks to a balanced scoring effort and a tenacious defense, with four players scoring in double-figures led by forward Dorian Finney-Smith’s 12 points. 

The junior also chipped in seven rebounds, three steals and two assists off the bench. Carter added 11 points with five turnovers. 

UF actually opened the game in a 10-0 hole, failing to get on the scoreboard for the first 5:28 of the opening period. 

Then Finney-Smith entered the contest, and the Gators immediately went on a 17-4 spurt, as the Aggies couldn’t buy a bucket. 

A seesaw affair early in the second half quickly became a blowout, as UF took control with a 14-0 sprint. 

UF’s half court defense was suffocating for the second straight game, holding the Aggies’ top playmaker Danuel House scoreless (0-for-10) for the first time all season.

The Gators frustrated House with traps and aggressive looks, with UF point guard Kasey Hill (eight assists, two steals) doing an excellent job in 1-on-1 situations. 

Texas A&M point guard Alex Caruso led all scorers with 20 points, while swingman Jalen Jones added 15 points and nine boards. 

“There’s times and glimpses where we play at a very, very high level,” said Donovan on Florida’s stingy defense.

“Mentally this was a game where we felt like we did a terrific job sustaining defensive intensity the whole entire time.” 

UF honored walk-ons Lexx Edwards and Jacob Kurtz during a Senior Night ceremony before the game.   

Kurtz, a key glue-guy the last two years, earned the start and scored a nifty hustle layup late in the first half, only to get injured on the play. 

The forward, who finished with two points and two assists, was poked in the right eye and barely played the rest of the night with his eye nearly swollen shut. 

NOTES

Freshmen Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson both scored 10 points. Florida shot 48 percent from the field, and hit 8-of-20 shots from downtown … Alex Murphy chipped in nine points, including seven straight during a mini-run in the second half. Murphy ignited a sparse crowd with a monstrous two-handed jam during a 12-0 run. … UF also played its seventh straight game without leading scorer Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

February 28, 2015

Donovan nets 500th win, as Florida cruises past UT

GAINESVILLE -- Billy Donovan swears win No. 500 wasn’t on his mind. 

He’s not even sure when Florida's next victory will even come. 

But in a forgettable and frustrating season, Donovan finally reached the elusive milestone, as UF smashed Tennessee 66-49 Saturday night in the O’Connell Center. 

In a special night worth remembering, the man who turned Florida into a national powerhouse became the second-youngest men’s D-1 coach to win 500 games.

“I’ve been part of at least a lot of unbelievable experiences in that building. Tonight was very, very meaningful,” Donovan, 49, said. 

It’s been a tough season for the Gators, but in the rout’s closing seconds the Rowdy Reptiles chanted “Billy D. Billy D. Billy D,” and Florida celebrated Donovan’s achievement with a postgame video montage. 

“I thought there was a great crowd tonight, and obviously our team has struggled this year," he said.

"For the amount of people to come out like they did to watch our team play, I was very, very appreciative and very thankful for that. I thought we had a great environment, a great crowd. Then to be kind of honored like that at the end of the game was extremely touching, and I was very, very thankful for that."

The Gators snapped a two-game skid, as Dorian Finney-Smith returned from a three-game suspension to lead all players with 20 points and 10 rebounds. 

The redshirt junior didn’t start, but recorded his second double-double on the season and his most points since Jan. 7 against South Carolina. 

“I just wanted to come out here and play with a lot of energy,” Finney-Smith said. 

“I owed it to these guys to come and have a good game.”

Florida (14-15, 7-9 SEC) led wire-to-wire, shooting a blistering 57.1 percent from the field.

The Vols’ matchup-zone defense was a sieve, yielding a barrage of dunks and 3-pointers for the Gators’ best offensive performance in over 10 weeks. 

UF point guard Kasey Hill rebounded from a miserable effort in Wednesday’s loss at Missouri, slicing Tennessee’s zone for eight dimes and seven points. Gators center Jon Horford chipped in 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting.   

“We were balanced,” Donovan said. 

“We just weren’t just all 3-point bomb shots, we had some layups, we did some good things. … Overall offensively the thing I was most pleased about was the 21 assists.”

The Gators opened the game on a 15-5 run and never looked back. Tennessee (14-14, 6-10 SEC) trailed 40-22 at halftime, as UF’s red-hot start led to seven treys, seven dunks and an astounding 14 assists on 15 field goals. 

The second half became mainly a perfunctory exercise, as UF’s lead ballooned to 23 points and UT never cut the deficit to single digits.   

Florida’s defensive effort was nearly as impressive, suffocating UT’s halfcourt attack. The Vols’ leading scorer Josh Richardson (15.9 ppg) never found a rhythm, scoring just nine points -- none in the first half. 

The Gators forced 14 turnovers and finished with a 27-19 advantage on the glass. 

Junior forward Armani Moore led Tennessee with 18 points, scoring the team’s first eight points to start the game. 

UF hosts Texas A&M at 9 p.m. Tuesday.  

NOTES

Gators junior guard Eli Carter joined the 1,000-point club with 11, including a trio of first-half 3-pointers. Carter, who missed practice this week with strep throat, also added six assists. … The Vols lost their fifth straight game and seven of eight. … The Gators’ balanced effort led to a 33-18 advantage in bench points.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

February 27, 2015

Finney-Smith reinstated, will play Saturday against UT

GAINESVILLE -- Florida reinstated versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith after a three-game suspension, coach Billy Donovan announced Friday. 

Finney-Smith will play (and potentially start) Saturday when UF hosts Tennessee at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. 

“He served his penalty,” Donovan said. 

“He did all the things we asked him to do and expected him to do. When I first suspended him, we kept him out of practice for about five days. Brought him back into practice and had him to do some things. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do up to this time. 

The redshirt junior, also suspended to start the 2013-14 season for violating team rules, is averaging 12.9 points and a team-leading 5.8 rebounds.  

“I apologize to my family, my coaches, my teammates and the university,” Finney-Smith said in a release.  

“I made a mistake and I will learn from it. Hopefully, I can move on.”

The Gators desperately need Finney-Smith’s production, losing six of seven and failing to score more than 65 points in over a month. 

Meanwhile, Florida’s leading scorer (13.2 ppg) Michael Frazier II remains doubtful with a high-ankle sprain and redshirt junior guard Eli Carter’s status is unknown following another bout of strep throat. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

February 25, 2015

O'Connell Center renovations delayed a year

GAINESVILLE -- The O’Connell Center’s massive renovations will be put on hold. 

Florida and the University Athletic Association announced Wednesday construction on the O’Dome will be delayed one year. 

The UAA cited the $60 million project’s “aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team” as reasons for the postponement. 

The renovation was scheduled to begin in early March, immediately after the conclusion of the men’s basketball season. 

“We remain 100 percent committed to this project,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release.  

“The $60 million that we have already earmarked for the project is indicative of this commitment.”

Although UF has “earmarked” the funds, the UAA has yet to raise (via private donors) the estimated $60 million. 

A new construction manager has been hired and a budget and timeline are expected “in the next couple months.” The current design plays are roughly 60 percent complete, with a new entrance, renovated concession stands, club seating and chair backs already included. 

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings. It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right,” UF president Kent Fuchs said.

Florida’s basketball team was not scheduled to play its non-conference games during the 2015-16 season in the O'Dome, planning a barnstorming tour across the state. 

Now, UF will play all its home games in the O’Dome and any other changes to events “generally held in the O’Connell Center will be made once information is confirmed.” 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

February 18, 2015

Sans DFS, Gators halt skid & win on late dunk

GAINESVILLE -- Florida snapped its four-game losing skid without its top all-around player, knocking off Vanderbilt 50-47 on Wednesday in an ugly, seesaw affair sans forward Dorian Finney-Smith. 

UF’s redshirt junior -- the team’s second leading scorer (12.9) and top rebounder (5.8) -- was suspended “indefinitely” for violating team rules, but freshman forward Devin Robinson stepped up in Finney-Smith’s absence and registered the game-winning dunk on a nifty baseline feed from point guard Kasey Hil with 2.1 seconds.

Robinson scored a team-high 12 points, 10 after halftime, responding after another first-half benching following a myriad of defensive lapses. 

“Kasey penetrated and got the big man in the air,” Robinson said.

“I was just in the right spot at the right time. ... [The benching] was hard. Donovan was tough on me. He said a couple words that probably hurt my feelings, but I didn’t put my head down. I just went out there and took it as a challenge.”

"A challenge" is exactly what Wednesday's game amounted to, as baskets were a premium. 

Florida, losers of two consecutive games by a single point, overcame a ghastly shooting effort without Finney-Smith or leading scorer Michael Frazier (high ankle-sprain). 

The Gators hit just 36 percent from the field and 50 percent (10-of-20) from the free throw line, scoring a measly 19 points in the first half. 

The Commodores, led by freshman sharpshooter Riley LaChance, crawled into halftime on a 13-0 run, as Florida failed to score in the final 8:37 of the period (0-of-10 FG). 

Still, UF was able to hang around because Vandy wasn’t any better (33 percent).

The SEC's top 3-point shooting team went just 6-of-20 from behind the arc. 

The Gators eventually righted the ship (sort of), as Robinson and Alex Murphy hit key shots and allowed UF’s defense to setup a suffocating press. The Commodores’ youth struggled with the pressure, committing 6 second-half turnovers and forcing poor shots early in the clock.  

“Offensively it is an absolute struggle,” Donovan said.  

“A struggle. … It was a tough shooting night by both teams. I thought both teams struggled to score.” 

The Gators went on a 13-0 run midway through the second half, only to see the Commodores trigger a 12-4 sprint late and take a 47-46 lead with 50 seconds left. 

But Florida (13-13, 6-7 SEC) finally found a way to win a last-possession game with a key play by a pair of underclassmen. 

Meanwhile, Finney-Smith was suspended for the second time in his UF career, missing three games at the start of the 2013-14 season. 

“He’s not playing against LSU [on Saturday],” Donovan said. “Then I’ll revisit it on Monday. … Dorian’s decisions represent a lack of commitment.” 

NOTES

Murphy and freshman guard Chris Chiozza were a combined 3-for-31 from downtown in SEC play entering the contest, but the two reserves combined to shoot 4-of-8 from 3-point range on Wednesday. Murphy’s 11 points matched a career-high … Sophomore center/forward Chris Walker registered a career-high five blocks. … Vandy is now 0-6 in games decided by a single possession this season, while UF moved to 3-6 in such contests. … Frazier “might” miss the remainder of the year with his high-ankle sprain, per Donovan. … Donovan won his 499th career game. … LaChance led all players with 17 points on 7-of-18 shooting. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

February 12, 2015

Heartbreaker: Moody buries deep trey to stun Gators

GAINESVILLE -- The heartbreaking losses continue to pile up for the Florida Gators. 

Stefan Moody drilled an off-balance 25-footer with just 2.7 seconds to send Ole Miss to a 62-61 road win over Florida on Tuesday night.

The Rebels trailed by two points with 18.7 seconds before the junior guard buried the deep, contested game-winner to send the Gators (12-12, 5-6 SEC) to their third straight loss -- and fifth stunning defeat by one possession in 2014-15.

Ole Miss is now 2-0 versus Florida this season -- by a combined two points.

“We played good defense,” UF freshman forward Devin Robinson said, frustratingly admitting the team feels snake-bitten.

“He just bombed it and it went in.”

Moody led all scorers with 18 points (4-of-7 from 3-point range), but Robinson nearly spurred the upset with a breakout performance starting in place of injured sharpshooter Michael Frazier II (high-ankle sprain).

Florida’s freshman forward scored a team-high 14 points, stuffing the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal in a losing effort.

“I thought it was his most complete game,” said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who is now 12-12 for the first time since his inaugural season in Gainesville. 

“He did some really good things.”

Still, it wasn’t quite enough.

Florida led 61-57 with 2:30 remaining after forward Dorian Finney-Smith hit a corner trey. But the Gators wasted a pair of possessions down the stretch, drawing a shot-clock violation and nearly air-balling another attempt.

“The problem was the two previous ones we got standing waiting for someone else to make a play,” Donovan said. 

“Everyone was waiting for someone else to make a play. We have to learn to do it collectively together. … We don’t have a Moody to [step up] and make a play.”

Ole Miss (17-7, 8-3 SEC) trailed 38-33 at halftime, but the Rebels opened the second half on an 11-5 sprint. Florida was able to stabilize itself, retake the lead and slowly grind the game away thanks to some timely offense by Robinson and Finney-Smith (14 points, 7 boards).

But up 54-49 with 7:30 remaining, Donovan sat the pair for some brief rest, and it ultimately cost the Gators. The Rebels quickly went on a 6-0 run to setup a back-and-forth final few minutes and the thrilling finish.

UF plays at Texas A&M on Saturday.

NOTES:

Moody, a FAU transfer, hit the winner in front of family and friends. … Rebels reserve LaDarius White scored 11 first-half points, finishing with 16. … The Gators used their 10th different starting lineup this year. …  Without Frazier, the team’s leading scorer at 13.2 ppg, Florida struggled from the field, shooting just 37.7 percent.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 31, 2015

Frazier sinks clutch FTs, lifts UF past Arkansas

GAINESVILLE -- Michael Frazier II sank two clutch free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining, as Florida escaped with a 57-56 win over Arkansas on Saturday afternoon in the O’Connell Center. 

Gators (12-9, 5-3 SEC) freshman guard Chris Chiozza missed a layup late, but Frazier corralled the offensive rebound and was questionably fouled by Arkansas (16-5, 5-3 SEC) guard Aldandise Harris. 

Despite a second straight game without a 3-pointer, Florida's junior sharpshooter displayed poise overcoming another tough night (2-of-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from downtown) and a halftime benching.

Frazier drilled both freebies, and gave the Gators their second straight conference thrilling win this week. 

“What has happened to these guys is that when it has not gone well for them they lose their competitive spirit and they don’t fight,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

“They don’t scratch. They don’t claw. They get down, and there was a couple moments late where we were teetering a little bit and we were back to that mindset. But I thought they really battled as hard as they could.”

The Gators moved to 5-3 in the SEC. Their NCAA hopes remain faint, but a win over the Razorbacks did give UF its first top-25 RPI win on the year. The Gators are now 1-7 against the RPI top 50. 

Florida plays at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.  

BY THE NUMBERS

10.7 - seconds remaining when Anton Beard grabbed an offensive rebound and scored a baseline layup to put Razorbacks up one late. 

34.6 — UF’s field goal percentage, its second worst in a win this season. Despite another late-game scoring lull, the Gators survived the Razorbacks’ 12-3 run late with some timely free throw shooting (17-of-25) by Frazier and Jacob Kurtz. 

23 - Missed shots by Florida’s backcourt (Frazier, Kasey Hill and Eli Carter). The trio combined for just five made field goals and 13 points. 

14 - NBA scouts, most (or all) of whom witnessed Razorbacks forward Bobby Portis dominate all afternoon. The 6-11 sophomore led all scorers with 21 points, adding 10 rebounds and two blocks.  

4 - Dunks by Dorian Finney-Smith, who had two thunderous tomahawk slams that really energized both the crowd and team. Finned-Smith finished the afternoon with 16 points — UF’s lone scorer in double figures. The junior forward led the Gators in points, rebounds (9), assists (4) and turnovers (3).  

15.8 percent - The combined 3-point shooting percentage (6-for-38) for SEC’s best two teams (statistically) downtown. 

8-0 - Florida’s sprint to end the first half, taking some much-needed momentum and a two-point lead into the locker room. 

QUOTABLES

“Credit to Florida, they hung in there and found a way to win. But I was disappointed with the officiating going down the stretch. A guy that I’ve seen before, John Hampton, made one of the more critical calls in the game. The last play, I was not satisfied with [the call].”

-- Arkansas coach Mike Anderson 

“We just kept fighting. Things didn’t go our way every time. …  Honestly, I knew [the free throws] were going in. Michael had a tough night shooting, but I told him earlier in the game he was going to make a game-winning play. He stayed in the game.”

-- UF forward Dorian Finney-Smith    

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton 

January 20, 2015

NCAA dagger? Florida mauled at home by LSU

GAINESVILLE -- It’s only January, but Florida’s NCAA Tournament hopes are already on life support. 

The Gators (10-8, 3-2 SEC) were mauled at home by the LSU Tigers, suffering consecutive conference losses for the first time since 2011-12. 

LSU (14-4, 3-2 SEC) trounced UF 79-61 on Tuesday in the O'Connell Center, spearheaded by Jarrell Martin’s game-high 22 points.

The 6-foot-10 forward was unstoppable inside, while fellow forward Jordan Mickey chipped in 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double on the year.  

“They beat us in every facet of the game,” UF reserve swingman Alex Murphy said. 

“If we don’t come together as a team we’ll continue to get embarrassed.” 

Murphy was Florida's lone bright spot (a career-high 10 points), as little else went right Tuesday night.  

UF missed another prime opportunity for a statement win, as its usual maladies continued to plague an enigmatic group. 

Florida had no answer for Martin or Mickey, and its issues didn’t stop there, as the Gators were also gashed in transition (14 fast break points) and from downtown (8-of-13 from 3-point range). 

Tigers guard Keith Hornsby was 3-for-6 from deep, while point guard Tim Quarterman added 15 points and eight assists off the bench.  

UF played with minimal energy early, and consistently lacked execution and defensive discipline throughout. The Gators again demonstrated a lack of chemistry and continuity.  

“I’ve tried a lot of different things with [the team] but they’re going to have to go through [the growing pains] for us to get better,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. 

“Not enough competitiveness, not enough fight. Definitely not enough at all.” 

Florida’s offensive execution wasn’t any better, hitting just 3-of-16 from behind the arc and missing tons of shots around the rim. The Gators shot just 38 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers. 

Donovan juggled his starting lineup again, going with Kasey Hill, Jon Horford, Jacob Kurtz, Michael Frazier II and Devin Robinson for just second time all year. Afterwards, Donovan acknowledged his rotation remains in flux, as he is desperate to find any sort of consistency from a 10-man rotation.

“It’s like a revolving door,” he said. 

“There’s no one else I can really put in there right now.” 

The Gators trailed 37-32 at halftime, but the Tigers slowly extended their lead and went on a 14-2 run midway through the second half. Florida responded with a quick 7-0 spurt to cut LSU’s lead to 10 with 5:54 remaining, but Martin tipped in a put-back and Quarterman drained a deep 3-pointer to stop the run. 

“Collectively, we’re not getting it done right now,” UF swingman Michael Frazier II said. 

“It’s really as simple as that.”

NOTES

Dorian Finney-Smith missed two days of practice with a hyper-extended knee and did not start. The redshirt junior had 10 points, eight rebounds and five turnovers off the bench. … The 18-point loss was Florida’s worst home defeat since 2010 against Ohio State. … LSU won in Gainesville for the first time since 2008. … The Gators return to action Saturday at Ole Miss (6 p.m., SEC Network). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 15, 2015

Florida rolls Auburn, moves to 3-0 in SEC play

GAINESVILLE -- The Rowdy Reptiles chanted “Sweaty Bruce” all night, and Florida cruised past Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers without much fuss.

Pearl's jacket never even came off. 

The Gators (10-6, 3-0 SEC) trounced the Tigers 75-55, winning their 24th straight Southeastern Conference game Thursday. 

All ten regulars scored for Florida, with four players registering double figures -- led by junior Dorian Finney-Smith’s 14 points.

The versatile forward scored 12 points in the second half, overcoming early foul trouble.

“We’re a hard team to beat when we have four guys in double figures,” Finney-Smith said.

Sophomore point guard Kasey Hill was brilliant, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, seven assists, three steals, five rebounds and zero turnovers.

“I thought Kasey was really good tonight,” UF coach Billy Donovan said.

“Really it’s been two games now coming off that one assist, six turnovers against South Carolina that he’s had 14 assists and one turnover. You’re got to really give him credit. He’s done a great job running our team.

Florida never trailed Thursday, leading by as many as 24 points. The Gators stormed to a 24-8 advantage early, fueled by a 15-0 run midway through the first half.

Hill constantly got the hoop against AU’s matador defense in the early goings, speeding off screens for layups and easy assists.

The Gators got solid production off the bench, too, as Eli Carter (12 points) and Michael Frazier II (11 points, nine rebounds) chipped in noteworthy performances.

Meanwhile, Pearl's reintroduction to the O'Connell Center was rarely pleasant. 

The former Tennessee coach's team struggled to generate quality shots (tallying just 16 made field goals and shooting 32.7 percent) or impose his pressing defense.  

Cinmeon Bowers had 11 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double on the year, while Antoine Mason led the Tigers (9-7, 1-2 SEC) in scoring with 13 points. 

The Tigers had a seven-minute field goal drought in the first half, and later went nearly 10 minutes without a bucket.

At one point after halftime, they had more turnovers (10) than made field goals (six).

The Gators held a 37-20 lead in the first half, but sloppy play (five turnovers, 11 fouls) allowed the Tigers to hang around. Auburn rallied for a 10-0 sprint to cut UF’s lead to 10 with 5:52 to play.

"There’s a lack of immaturity, a lack of understanding,” said Donovan, on Florida’s difficulty maintaining concentration and composure with late leads.

“We’re up 19 points and we have three empty possessions and they come down and make three-straight threes. All of a sudden the lead goes down to 10 and they look around and are like, ‘What happened?’ Like they have no concept. … My biggest problem right now is I felt like the last two years we were one of the best teams in the country playing defense without fouling. We are now fouling at an astronomical and alarming rate. It’s 20 fouls every game. Every game.” 

Florida did answer AU’s surge with a quick 6-0 dash, regaining control and effectively icing the game.

UF plays at Georgia on Saturday at 2 p.m. (CBS). 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

January 10, 2015

Gators cruise, extend SEC win streak to 23 straight

GAINESVILLE -- With junior sharpshooter Michael Frazier II limited by a respiratory illness, Florida (9-6, 2-0 SEC) turned to Eli Carter for some scoring punch.

Carter did his best Frazier impression, scoring 20 points (4-of-6 from downtown) off the bench on just eight shots, leading UF to a 72-47 thrashing over Mississippi State (7-8, 0-2 SEC) on Saturday night in the O’Connell Center.

“It felt good,” said Carter, who’s battled a myriad of injuries the last two seasons.

“It’s a weight off my shoulders.” 

Carter scored his most points (21) since UF’s loss to Miami, chipping in three assists and a couple nifty defensive plays, too.

The potential super-sub takes the Gators' offense to another level (extra ball-handler, legitimate perimeter threat), and Saturday's results beared fruit.  

“Eli Carter’s shot chart over his career is like EKG exam. He’s one of those guys that when his shot is not falling there have been other parts of his game that have fallen off,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said.  

“This is a game where his shots were going it. It’s always easy to be engaged in a game when you’re making shots, or if it’s going well offensively.  … When he does not shoot the ball well we’ve got to get those other things from him and in the past he has not done that. He’s worming hard to become more [consistent]. He can make the game easy for other guts. We need that out of him.”

Meanwhile, Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith continued as UF's lone steady contributor, adding 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Sophomore point guard Kasey Hill rebounded from a tough performance at South Carolina (six turnovers, one assists) to chip in seven points and seven assists with just one turnover.

The Gators never trailed and were never even threatened against MSU, storming to an early 22-7 lead thanks to some blistering shooting (9-of-10 start).

Bulldogs swingman Demetrius Houston drilled a 65-foot heave at halftime buzzer, but the miracle shot only cut the Gators’ lead to 20 points and was MSU’s lone highlight of the night.

UF led 39-19 at halftime and easily extended its school-record SEC winning streak to 23.

"I think we're getting better," Donovan said. "I think the best thing for this team, and who knows how the year finishes out, but the best thing in my opinion for this team, was the fact our schedule was so challenging."

MSU entered the night ranked last or near the bottom in nearly every offensive category in the conference, and Florida’s pressure defense made the Bulldogs’ putrid attack look even worse.

The Gators locked down the Bulldogs, forcing hurried shots and 15 turnovers and scoring 26 points off takeaways.

Meanwhile, UF’s offense was fluid and full of crisp passing. The Gators shot 52 percent and had 19 assists -- tying a season high.

"We played very unselfishly," Donovan said. 

"We really shared [the ball]."

UF hosts Auburn on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

December 31, 2014

Kurtz's tip wins game for Florida ... State

Florida lost to in-state rival Florida State in brutal fashion Tuesday night in Tallahassee, as senior walk-on Jacob Kurtz accidentally tipped in FSU guard Devon Bookert’s buzzer-beating shot that initially fell short. 

Kurtz tried to get the rebound, but the “own goal” snapped the Gators' modest four game winning streak and gave the Seminoles a 65-63 win. 

    Vine via Tim Reynolds 

Kurtz’s gaffe was the seminal moment in the game, but Florida was plagued by costly mistakes throughout, committing 17 turnovers, shooting just 21 percent (4 of 19) from 3-point range and hitting just 7-of-13 free throws. 

The Gators (7-5) are now 1-3 in games decided by five points or less. 

THIS & THAT

UF point guard Kasey Hill led all scorers with 17 points. … Senior guard Eli Carter sprained his ankle early in the first half and didn’t return. … The Gators were out-rebounded 38-37. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

December 14, 2014

Florida cruises past Jacksonville, wins third straight

GAINESVILLE -- Florida has been a team defined by good (Kansas, Yale) and bad (Miami, Louisiana-Monroe, Kansas) runs this season.

Sunday’s spurt against Jacksonville proved its most impressive scoring flurry thus far.

The Gators throttled the Dolphins 79-34 in the O’Connell Center, ending the game on a 51-10 sprint and holding JU to a paltry 10 points after halftime.

Forward Dorian Finney-Smith scored a career-high 25 points with eight rebounds, shooting a scorching 5-of-7 from downtown.

“Tonight was just my night,” he said.

“It felt great. My teammates did a great job finding me when I was open. We really moved the ball well.”

Finney-Smith led the way with a dozen points in the first half, including a turnaround jumper off the backboard at the buzzer. He also threw down a left-handed tomahawk, alley-oop  -- the same hand with a pair of hairline fractures.

“I think for him everyday that goes by [his hand] gets a little better,” UF coach Billy Donovan. “Playing with that brace on isn’t the easiest thing for him. Each day he gets a little healthier.”

Junior sharpshooter Michael Frazier II added 22 points with six 3-pointers, while senior center Jon Horford chipped in a workman’s performance (12 points, 8 rebounds).

UF (6-4) won its third straight game, sweeping a three-game, five-day homestand. 

The Gators never trailed and were sizzling from outside, drilling a season-high 13 3-pointers and shooting (55 percent) from the floor.

They opened the game hot, hitting four straight treys and 6 of their first 10 shots. But UF’s 16-7 start was quickly erased, as halfcourt defensive lapses (JU shot 50 percent in the first half) and sloppiness (seven turnovers) allowed the Dolphins (2-9) to stay close.

“I was really disappointed in the first half,” Donovan said.  “We give up 50 percent from the field and didn’t come in with the right approach. This is part of these guys’ growing process. I thought from a competitive standpoint, I know the scoreboard didn’t show it, but they outplayed us.”

Florida’s intensity changed in the second half and the scoreboard absolutely conveyed the results.

The Gators dominated the Dolphins after halftime, shooting 68 percent from the field and suffocating JU defensively (16 percent from the field). 

“We played much better in the second half,” Donovan said. “We certainly did a better job with our intensity level in the second half. … Doe-Doe really elevated our team.”

THIS & THAT

UF started a pair of true freshmen (forward Devin Robinson, guard Chris Chiozza) for the first time all season. Chiozza started in place of sophomore point guard Kasey Hill, who played despite battling a stomach bug. … The Gators were 6-of-11 from the charity stripe. … Florida’s next home game is Jan. 3 against Connecticut, the defending national champs. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


Categories


Archives


Powered by TypePad