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Video: Final Four Recap

By on April 6th, 2014

Video Recap from North Texas

WUFT’s Corey Brooks recaps the two games from North Texas as the UConn Huskies and Kentucky Wildcats head to the championship game in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

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Florida’s Streak and Season End at the Hands of Uconn 63-53 In Final Four

By on April 6th, 2014

In Florida’s locker room following its 63-53 Final Four loss to Uconn, a reporter asked senior guard Scottie Wilbekin, “This team hasn’t lost in so long, did you even think you could lose?”

Saturday’s Final Four game was a meeting between the Florida Gators, who were coming into the game on a 30-game winning streak and the team that last beat them before that streak began, the Uconn Huskies.

Leading up to the game, Florida made its defensive plan clear: don’t let Shabazz Napier beat you — with both his own scoring ability and his ability to get his teammates open looks. And in the end, it wasn’t really Napier who beat Florida (he didn’t score a point until 3:55 left in the first half) it was his supporting cast, in a performance that was mandatory to prove they were worthy of beating the country’s top team.

But it wasn’t Florida’s defense that let them down as the game progressed — Florida started the game winning 16-4 — it was their ability to create shots that wasn’t there; UConn could, Florida could not. Gators guard Michael Frazier II (who only was able to attempt three shots) talked about not being able to run their offense.

“That’s the result of us not being able to run our offense and execute,” Frazier said. “They were disruptive when they were guarding us, so it was hard to get the ball moving.”

After the 16-4 start, UConn would go on a 21-6 run to end the half, starting with DeAndre Daniels hitting back-to-back 3-pointers (he ended the game with a team-high 20 points.)

The first half would end 25-22 Uconn, and end on a bad ast possession shot from Scottie Wilbekin, something Florida fans aren’t used to as of late (see the SEC Championship game and the game versus Dayton.)

But Florida was one of the best adjustment teams in the country this season, and if any team could turn the offense around, it was them; they didn’t.

UConn started the second half on a 6-0 run and at one point, the game became 37-27, UF’s largest deficit of the tournament.

The Gators would fight back thanks to the efforts of Patric Young and Casey Prather; who ended the game with 19 and 15 points respectively, but the game never got closer than three points and when the final buzzer sounded, the team that had beaten every opponent they faced in the tournament by double digits had lost by double digits themselves.

“It’s very hard because we haven’t lost in a long time, and when you do lose… it’s probably the worst feeling, because you’ve won so much, all you want to do is keep it going, but it happens.” Gators guard Kasey Hill said.

“Yeah, going inside is something that we should have utilized more with their big guys in foul trouble,” Young said. “They came to me a lot more in the second half and I was able to finish and make the right plays, but it was a team effort; everyone didn’t have the game they wanted tonight.Their defense was so disruptive… the best team won tonight.”

It’s been a special run for this Florida team, a team with a senior class who made it to the Elite 8 every year it played and even this year making it to the Final Four.

“It hurt quite a bit because it’s the last time playing together. Each one of us had to persevere to get to this point,” Prather said. “(We) had to battle certain obstacles. We just wanted to have a shot at Monday.”

For Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete and Patric Young, Saturday night was the last time they would put on that jersey, a jersey they battled to own for four straight years.

“I think every coach sits up here and is so proud of my guys; I’m so proud of my guys. Me being proud of them is from a totally different perspective, because of me personally, I saw how dysfunctional we were in September… I got a chance to experience a lot of personal victories along the way off the court. Their body of work on the court people will evaluate or judge themselves, but for me personally, where they were as individuals and where they were as a team to where they came from in terms of becoming a team, I mean, it was one of the most special experiences I’ve had being around a group of guys away from the court maybe since I’ve been coaching,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said.

So in the end, the Gators players knew they could lose, but the pain of losing a game was nothing compared to the thought of losing their last chance to play with one another. They lost that chance, but in the moment of their greatest pain, the seniors picked themselves up together and walked out of the building not as four seniors, but as four brothers.

For audio on the quotes above, click here:

Florida guard Michael Frazier II on the team’s offensive struggles

Florida guard Kasey Hill on the pain of losing

Florida forward Patric Young on what his team could’ve done better

Florida forward Casey Prather on playing his last game at UF

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Locker Room with Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather

By on April 6th, 2014

Locker Room Interviews

We caught up with Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II in the Gators locker room after their Final Four loss to the UConn Huskies.

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Photo Gallery: Gators in North Texas

By on April 6th, 2014

Due to NCAA rules, we couldn’t get photos of the game. But we got you everything else from the Gators’ weekend in North Texas!

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Florida Softball Uses the Long Ball to Beat Auburn

By on April 6th, 2014

The sixth-ranked Gators softball team took advantage of three home runs to beat 19th ranked Auburn 7-6 on Saturday. The Orange and Blue scored seven or more runs for the fifth time in SEC play to support junior Lauren Haeger, who improved to 7-1 in relief of freshman Delanie Gourley.

Senior Hannah Rogers pitched the seventh inning to earn the save for the Gators (33-8, 7-7 SEC), her first of the season and her first since June 1, 2013, when she worked the final frame of Florida’s 15-inning win over Nebraska at the College World Series.

Auburn (31-8-1, 6-5 SEC) loaded the bases with no outs in the first, but Gourley retired three straight batters to get out of the jam. In the bottom of the frame, the Tigers hit freshman Chelsea Herndon with a pitch and walked Haeger before senior Stephanie Tofft slugged a three-run home run to right field that gave Florida a 3-0 lead.

Gourley issued a two-out walk in the second, but induced a fielder’s choice to retire the Tigers. Sophomore Taylore Fuller walked to lead off the bottom of the inning, and then advanced to third on two wild pitches before coming home on an RBI double by sophomore Kelsey Stewart. Stewart’s double in the second increased her reached-base streak to 41 games, extending her single-season program record.

Auburn tied the game at four with a pair of two-run home runs to center field in the third inning before sophomore Kirsti Merritt put the Gators back in front with a solo homer off the flagpole beyond the center-field wall to start the bottom of the frame. Haeger replaced Gourley in the circle for the fourth inning.

A leadoff walk proved costly for Florida as Auburn tied the game at 5-5 in the fourth. Sophomore catcher Aubree Munro walked to lead off the bottom of the frame, but she was stranded at second. Haeger set the Tigers down in order before the Gators offense produced two runs in the fifth. Merritt put the Gators ahead with her second home run of the game to lead off the inning, followed by a single from Haeger and an RBI base hit up the middle by sophomore Taylor Schwarz that scored junior pinch-runner Jessica Damico.

Haeger hit one batter and walked another with two down in the sixth, but got out of the inning with a foul out. Freshman pinch-hitter Justine McLean drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the frame, but she was stranded. Rogers entered to close out the game for the Gators, limiting Auburn to one run to save the win for Haeger and secure the series victory for Florida.

After the two homerun performance, Merritt was asked about hitting one off the flagpole in center field.

“Once in a lifetime, never again will I hit the flag pole. I actually thought that it hit the wall and I was wondering why the ball was still in play and I kept running then the umpire told me it was ok to slow down, that the ball went over.”

When asked about the most recent message sent among the team for inspiration, Merritt replied laughing, “Taylor Schwarz sent us a Miley Cyrus song: “Do My Thing.”

Stephanie Tofft was also another big piece in the victory, adding a long ball of her own. She explained the team’s mindset coming into the final game of the series.

“It’s the same as it was before, were just getting it done now, we are making adjustments, making plays. We are just out here to win and playing our hardest.”

The victory gave Florida its first SEC series victory since LSU back in mid-March.

First pitch for Sunday’s game is set for 1 p.m.

To hear more post-game comments from Head Coach Tim Walton and a few players, click on the links below:

Merritt talks about the team bouncing back from the previous skid

Merritt talks about hitting the flagpole in center field

Merritt talks about the changes she’s made in her swing

Tofft talks about the importance of jumping out to a lead early

Tofft talks about the team’s mindset coming into tomorrow’s game

Walton discusses the victory on Saturday

Walton talks about Merritt’s performance at the plate

Walton talks about the benefits of a young club

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Gators Edge Kentucky 11-10, Split Series

By on April 6th, 2014

After dropping the first of a three-game series in a 17-1 blowout, the Florida baseball team evened the series with an 11-10 win Saturday afternoon.

Logan Shore took the mound for the Gators, tossing seven shutout innings to get the win. The freshman righty had run support from his teammates, who tacked on nine runs on a season-high 17 hits, during his outing.

Seven of the nine starters for Florida plated a run. Out of those seven, juniors Taylor Gushue and Zack Powers contributed with a home run each.

As soon as the Gators relieved Shore, the Wildcats answered back with a booming eight-run eighth inning forcing the Gators to reach into their bullpen multiple times.

After surviving a rough eighth inning, the Gators tacked on two nsurance runs in the top of the ninth; this proved critical as the Wildcats added two runs in the bottom of the ninth before freshman left-hander A.J. Puk closed out the game, collecting his first save of the season.

The Gators hope to take the series finale set for noon Sunday when No. 19 Kentucky sends out junior righty Andrew Nelson to face a Gator starter to be announced.

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Magic Top Minnesota 100-92 Behind O’Quinn’s Double-Double

By on April 6th, 2014

The Orlando Magic knocked the Minnesota Timberwolves to .500 Saturday night with a 100-92 victory. (Photo: Robert Judin)

 

October 30, that was the last time the Orlando Magic (22-55) and Minnesota Timberwolves (38-38) tipped off against each other. The Timberwolves took the 120-115 overtime win.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaNH56Vpg-A&w=320&h=240]

The two teams squared off again Saturday night in what would turn out to be a 100-92 win for Orlando, and there was no love lost — except Kevin.

Minnesota’s leading scorer (26 ppg) and rebounder (12.6 rpg) was scratched from the lineup minutes before tip-off with back spasms. That was the toughest obstacle for an already injury-plagued Timberwolves squad that was also missing center Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin from its starting lineup.

“Missing a lot of people, we’re playing combinations we haven’t played before,” coach Rick Adelman said.

In the first half, the Magic took advantage of Love’s absence on the boards. Orlando out-rebounded Minnesota 20-15, with seven of the boards coming off the offensive glass.

But Orlando struggled to capitalize off those opportunities. The Magic managed to squeeze out only four second-chance points, allowing the Timberwolves to stay in the game.

Despite the fact the Timberwolves missed their first five shots from three, they held the lead going into halftime 48-46 after swapping the lead back and forth five times.

Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio dropped four dimes and eight points in the first half, but Minnesota couldn’t extend its lead past five.

That changed in the third quarter — thanks to Rubio.

He nearly doubled his first half stats with eight points and three assists in the third quarter. Rubio finished the game with 18 points and 10 assists.

As Love traded in hoisting threes for hoisting fists pumps, Rubio saw four Timberwolves step up to be his running mates.

Former Florida Gator Corey Brewer had 15 points and five steals. Minnesota’s Dante Cunningham added 12 points, and center Gorgui Dieng finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in place of Pekovic.

On the Magic’s side, Kyle O’Quinn dominated in every way, shape and form. O’Quinn torched Minnesota for a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. He also swatted four shots.

Magic forward Maurice Harkless was perfect from behind the arc (3-3) with 17 points. Aaron Afflalo also dropped 18 points, but the difference in the game might have been the Magic bench.

Orlando’s 47 points off the bench was anchored by Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo. The two young swingmen combined for 33 points and nine assists.

“Everybody contributed, and everybody just built off each other with the energy. It”s a ripple effect when everybody’s getting excited.” Harris said.

The game entered the fourth quarter with Minnesota leading 77-72, but the Magic bursted offensively, outscoring the Timberwolves 28-15 in the final period.

“That’s the biggest thing. I was just more aggressive,” Oladipo said. “I played with a lot more confidence, and we did a great job of sharing the ball today.”

The difference in the game came from the perimeter. Orlando knocked down 9-17 threes, while Minnesota hit 1-15 from deep.

Nothing really changes for either team. Minnesota is now a .500 team with only six games left, and Orlando is focusing on the NBA Draft in June.  Both will be in the draft lottery because, with this loss, Minnesota is officially out of playoff contention.

Minnesota will now head back home to host the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night, while the Magic will get the Brooklyn Nets back in Orlando on Wednesday.

 

To hear Brewer talk about Florida basketball and Minnesota’s loss to Orlando, click here:

 

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Florida’s Fantastic Hoops Season Ends With a 63-53 Final Four Loss to Uconn

By on April 5th, 2014

The Florida Gator men’s basketball magical season has come to an end (36-3) as the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Florida Gators by a score of 63-53 in the Final Four in Dallas on Saturday.

It was the kind of game Gator fans have been fearing all season as Florida’s offense looked timid and unproductive for most of the contest — after starting the game leading 16-4. UF had trouble scoring the whole game after that run and the guard play of Connecticut with Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier was outstanding.

Florida trailed by three points at the half but it was never to take the lead or make a run in the second half as has so often been the case this season. Senior center Patric Young led the Gators with 19 points while fellow senior Casey Prather added 15.

DeAndre Daniels scored 20 points to lead a balanced attack for Connecitcut, which will now play for the national title on Monday.

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Final Four Preview: The Florida Gators Aren’t Satisfied; Face Uconn Tonight

By on April 5th, 2014

The Florida Gator men’s basketball team has been on a date with destiny since the start of this season.

Over the course of five months, they’ve accumulated 36 total twins (30 in a row), an SEC regular season and tournament title and even solidified themselves as one of the Final Four teams still alive to compete for a national championship.

UF is making its fifth Final Four appearance, fourth under head coach Billy Donovan. The Gators have reached at least the Elite Eight in each of the past four seasons, while no other team in the country has even made the Sweet 16 all of the past four years.

Guard Scottie Wilbekin added to his trophy case with South Region Most Outstanding Player honors, averaging 16.8 points over the Gators’ first four NCAA Tournament games. Michael Frazier II also earned All-South Region recognition, with 10.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and 10 total 3-pointers. UF’s four seniors have played a combined 543 career games, including 265 games started.

Meeting with the media earlier this week, Donovan praise Frazier’s work ethic.

“Michael’s as hard of a working kid that I’ve ever been around,” Donovan said. “I never have to worry about dragging him into the gym or getting him extra shots; he’s got  great ability to shoot the ball. Our team, myself, we feel very confident when he shoots the ball.”

UF played UConn with essentially six players in the first meeting: Kasey Hill was out, Chris Walker was not yet at UF, and DeVon Walker and Jacob Kurtz played eight combined minutes.

The game was finished off with a Shabazz Napier buzzer beater, but Donovan knows Uconn made it this far with more than just Napier.

“Shabazz is a great player and he gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but it’s not just a one-man team,” Donovan said. “Boatright is terrific offensive player, plays with great energy on the defensive end of the floor. Daniels, Brimah, Giffey, they’re a whole team.

Both teams and both head coaches know this game will play out differently than the first time they met, but they’ll have to wait until 6:09 pm EST to find out.

For audio on the quotes above, click here:

Billy Donovan on Michael Frazier’s work ethic

Billy Donovan praising Uconn’s scorers

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Final Four Media Day: The Florida Gators In Dallas

By on April 5th, 2014

As the Florida Gator men’s basketball team stepped to the podium and into their private media rooms for the second time this week, their message was almost in unison: be yourself.

Florida knows they’re the No.1 team in the country, and they don’t just believe that because voters say they are, they’ve believed they could be all along.

During the individual media sessions with Florida’s starters at the NCAA Tournament in Dallas, most questions were asked about their previous match up with UConn which ended in a 65-64 buzzer beater loss off the hand of Shabazz Napier. But coming into this game, Florida is well aware that both teams are a lot further along in their development as players and as a team than they were back in December.

“Defensively, it’s going to take a team focus,” Florida forward Patric Young said. “Coming to help over is a key concept… if we can limit him (Napier) or even if he does what he does and we can limit the other guys, we’ll put ourselves in a good position to win the game.”

Gator head coach Billy Donovan went on to explain how Uconn has other good players around Napier, because Napier does such a good job of providing opportunities for his teammates.

On top of the questions asked of Napier, Donovan was asked whether he would rather have a team with a main player like Napier or a team like he has now where he can get production from six or seven different guys on any night.

“I would like to have four to six guys in double figures, because you don’t know what a team is going to try to do to take away from you. When a team takes certain things away, you still have to be able to have other guys step up in different situations and provide offense,” Donovan said.

A couple of questions designated to the starters were about the rest of the team. In specific, UF guard Scottie Wilbekin was asked about his relationship with Kasey Hill, how he’s taught him and helped him grow. Wilbekin answered and said Kasey learns on his own because he’s so willing to get better.

“I just try to give him pointers here and there. When I see something he’s struggling with that I went through, I try and help…. he does a great job of wanting to learn. It’s been a joy to play with him,” Wilbekin said.

As stated earlier, the theme of the day for Florida was “…if we do what we do…”

The takeaway from that is this; Florida has confidence. There’s always talk of Cinderella’s and teams on a hot streak and what team has taken a tougher road to reach the Final Four. But at the end of the day — and into the day Saturday — the Gators believe it is their tournament to lose.

And just to ease some worries, the Gators players say they’re not affected by the size or spacing of playing in AT&T Stadium. In fact, Dorian Finney-Smith laughed and said “It’s just basketball.”

For audio on the quotes above, click here:

Patric Young on how the team will defend against UConn

Billy Donovan on the team’s depth of scorers

Scottie Wilbekin on molding Kasey Hill

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