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Billy Donovan reflects on the 2012-2013 season and looks ahead to 2014

Following a successful, yet anticlimactic season that ended in the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team wrapped up its season nearly two weeks ago. Gator coach Billy Donovan put a bow on the 2012-2013 campaign, looking back on the run to the regular season SEC title while optimistically looking ahead to next year.

Although the Gators season culminated in another unsuccessful effort to reach the Final Four, UF compiled a record of 29-8, going 14-4 in Southeastern Conference play and earning their sixth SEC regular season title in program history. Donovan said that experience was pivotal for the team to achieve what they did.

UF’s defense was suffocating, the clear strength of the team throughout the season. In all, 25 opponents were held to under 60 points, while 14 were capped at 50 and four adversaries failed to eclipse the 40-point plateau. The Gators’ +17.0 scoring margin ranked second in the country. Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young were each awarded SEC All-Defensive Team honors for their efforts in holding off opposing offenses.

Donovan acknowledged the team’s strong defense, but said that rebounding left something to be desired.

Additionally, the veteran head coach hopes to see a calmer, cooler squad next season. The Gators lost six games decided by six points or less, an alarming statistic that Donovan believes needs to be addressed with an increase in toughness on an individual basis.

Forward Patric Young announced that he will return to the University of Florida earlier this week, providing another accomplished leader on the starting five in next year’s prospective lineup alongside Scottie Wilbekin. Young averaged 10.1 points per game and led the Orange and Blue in rebounding, hauling in a nightly average of 6.3. Although he’s impressed NBA scouts and turned down a chance to play professionally for the time being, Donovan believes that Young is not finished improving.

While Young’s decision to stay one more season provides experience and ability for next season, the Gators will be forced to replace three outstanding seniors. Kenny Boynton, the second all-time leading scorer in program history, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy will leave Gainesville behind after spending four seasons on the hardwood.

Joining the UF roster next year are two transfer student athletes who sat out the 2012-2013 season due to NCAA regulations. Sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith will arrive on campus after a stint at Virginia Tech, accompanied by junior center Demontre Harris by way of South Carolina. Many questions arise regarding transfer players, which Donovan said he pondered prior to accepting them on the roster.

UF’s Sweet 16 victory against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles marked the 450th win in the coaching career of Billy Donovan. The Gators hold a record of 31-11 in the NCAA Tournament under their head coach, surpassing former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp for the most all-time in the tournament by an SEC coach.

With the 2012-2013 season in the rear view mirror, the Gators look ahead with anticipation to next season in hopes of finally capturing an elusive fifth Final Four berth.

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