Florida Gators: College Hoops

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look back at the week that was at GatorNation:

Last week was Rankings Week, and GatorNation ranked UF's 2013 schedule, the top offensive and defensive players the Gators will face in 2013, the top 10 freshman contributors, and the top recruiting needs Insider for 2014.

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. put Gators QB Jeff Driskel on his list of quarterbacks he's watching in terms of the 2014 draft.

SEC blogger Edward Aschoff writes that RB Matt Jones is ready for the spotlight.

Big 12 blogger David Ubben gave us the Big 12-SEC matchups he'd like to see.

Alabama coach Nick Saban said being called the devil by Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis during a booster club speaking engagement was "terribly disappointing."

On the recruiting trail ...

The biggest news of the week was the decommitment of ESPN 150 OLB Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley). Insider

GatorNation's Derek Tyson answered your questions in his weekly mailbag. Insider

Tyson also wrote some tidbits, updates and news about the Gators' recruiting in the weekly Tales from the Road and met up with signee Jordan Sherit for a Q&A. Insider

Safety Trey Marshall (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) grew up a Florida fan but there's another school on top of his list right now. Insider

The Florida basketball team picked up a commitment from PG Chris Chiozza (Memphis, Tenn./White Station). Insider
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Still somewhat of a busy week, despite the fact that Florida has finished the spring semester and there's a break before the first summer semester begins.

ESPN provided a wrapup of spring practices around the SEC. Here's the breakdown of the Gators' spring. There are still several important questions that have to be answered.

One of those questions surrounds quarterback Jeff Driskel. How much has he improved and will that make the Gators' passing offense any more potent than it was in 2012, when it ranked 114th nationally? History seems to be on Driskel's side. All of UF's starting quarterbacks going back to Shane Matthews showed improvement from their first to second seasons as a starter. Sometimes it was dramatic, sometimes not.

Week in review: Spring wrapup

April, 13, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida wrapped up spring practice with a scrimmage, er, open practice and GatorNation provided extensive coverage of the practice as well as throughout the week.

One of the most significant bits of news to come out of the final practice was the fact that running back Matt Jones carried the ball only once because he had been so good throughout the spring that he had clearly won the starting job.

Here are some other observations from last Saturday’s open practice.

There were some surprises that came out of spring practice, too. The Gators also left spring with several pressing issues that must be solved before the season begins.

In other football news, defensive line coach Bryant Young resigned on Thursday because of personal reasons. Young was assisting Brad Lawing along the defensive line so the Gators could hire a special teams coordinator to take his place on staff.

On the recruiting trail ...

The Gators had a big recruiting weekend, which started when they picked up a commitment from ESPN Watch List running back Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) after the final spring practice. UF also picked up a quarterback when former professional baseball player Chris Wilkes, a 2008 Ole Miss commit, told UF coach Will Muschamp he planned on enrolling in May. Wilkes, who had been playing in the San Diego Padres system, will compete with Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg and Max Staver for the backup spot to starter Jeff Driskel.

GatorNation's Derek Tyson provided a list of key recruiting dates, which includes Friday Night Lights being tentatively scheduled for July 26. He also answers your questions in a recruiting mailbag.

The Gators are also after another Matt Elam -- this time it's a defensive tackle from Elizabethtown (Ky.) John Hardin.

For you hoops recruiting fans, Dave Telep and Paul Biancardi break down the SEC recruiting classes.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michigan is headed to the Final Four for the first time in nearly 20 years following Sunday's 79-59 annihilation of Florida in the Elite Eight at Cowboys Stadium.

Freshman Nik Stauskas scored 19 of his game-high 22 points in the first half to spark the Wolverines, the No. 4 seed in the South Region. Trey Burke added 15 points and seven assists. Will Yeguete and Kenny Boynton led Florida with 13 points each.

Michigan hardly looked fatigued from Friday's 87-85 overtime win against No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16. John Beilein's squad rallied from a 14-point deficit to win that game, but it certainly didn't need any second-half heroics to get by the Gators.

The Wolverines led by as many as 24 points before taking a 47-30 lead into intermission. Stauskas made all six of his field goal attempts in the opening stanza. Five of them were from 3-point range. It'd be inaccurate to say that Michigan caught Florida on an off night or that it built its big lead mainly because its opponent played poorly.

The Gators were simply out-classed in terms of talent.

By losing, No. 3 seed Florida became the first team in NCAA tournament history to fall in the Elite Eight three consecutive seasons. Michigan, meanwhile, advances to play Syracuse in the national semifinals Saturday in Atlanta.

Turning point: Florida, which trailed by scores of 23-5 and 41-17 in the opening half, put a bit of a scare into Michigan after intermission. A jump shot by Boynton shaved the Wolverines' lead to 50-38, but Michigan was quick to respond with a layup from Mitch McGary. Seconds after McGary's basket, Spike Albrecht stole Florida's inbounds pass and scored on a hanging layup to make it 54-38. It was never a game after that.

Key player: Stauskas was the main reason Michigan was able to separate itself from Florida in the first half. But freshman forward McGary was the player who set the tone early by scoring eight of his team's first 11 points in game-opening 11-0 run. McGary finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Burke had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.

Key stat: Michigan went 10-of-19 from 3-point range.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Another week of spring football practice is in the books and the basketball team rolled through the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament, so there’s a lot to recap.

On the football front, the Gators got some bad news early in the week when reserve offensive lineman Trip Thurman suffered a shoulder injury that UF coach Will Muschamp said appeared to be severe. Thurman’s injury left the Gators with only five healthy scholarship offensive linemen, and that is forcing them to alter their plans for the spring game.

[+] EnlargeLoucheiz Purifoy
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsLoucheiz Purifoy has moved back to defense for now, but he's not done with offense for good.
Instead of a true game, the Gators essentially will have a glorified open practice and will spend time in 7-on-7 and situational drills.

Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy finished his time at receiver and moved back to defense. The decision to try him out on offense was made because of the lack of production from the position since the 2009 season. And with freshman early enrollee Demarcus Robinson sidelined for a week with a sprained ankle, it doesn’t appear likely the Gators will get any answers at the position this spring.

SEC blogger Chris Low took a look back at some of the most memorable upsets in SEC play over the past 35 years. Ole Miss’ victory over Florida in 2008 -- which spawned Tim Tebow’s promise and was the catalyst to the Gators’ national championship run -- made the list.

On the recruiting trail ...

On the recruiting front, Derek Tyson put together his weekly mailbag, which included information about offensive tackle David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence), ESPN Watch List safety Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) and ESPN Watch List linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County).

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s defense is going to be tested immediately in the NCAA tournament.

The Gators earned a No. 3 seed in the South region and will play its tournament opener against No. 14 seed Northwestern State, which entered the weekend as the nation’s top-scoring team. The game will be played Friday in Austin, Texas.

The Gators (26-7), who won the regular-season Southeastern Conference title but fell to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, entered the weekend third nationally in scoring defense (53.2 points per game allowed). UF has allowed just one opponent to score more than 66 points since a 67-61 loss to Kansas State on Dec. 22, 2012.

Northwestern State (23-8) won the Southland Conference tournament. The Demons entered the weekend averaging 82.4 points per game, but that number dropped to 81.0 per game after the conference tournament.

The Demons have four players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 6-foot-7 forward DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg). Northwestern also is pretty deep. They have 10 players averaging at least 15.5 minutes per game.

Should the Gators get by Northwestern State they face a potential third-round matchup with No. 6 seed UCLA (25-9), which plays No. 11 seed Minnesota. UF has won all three of its meetings against the Bruins, and all have come in the NCAA tournament. The Gators beat UCLA in the 2006 national championship game, in the 2007 national semifinals and in a third-round game in 2011.

If the Gators do advance to the Sweet 16, they could potentially face No. 2 seed Georgetown (25-6). That would be a rematch of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Bataan at Mayport (Fla.) Naval Station that was never finished because of condensation on the court.

Florida's Prather steps in, steps up

February, 12, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Casey Prather left the Florida locker room after the Gators’ 69-52 victory over Kentucky with a small red bump on his lower lip near the corner of his mouth.

That wasn’t a lot of damage for the 6-foot-6 swingman despite an evening of playing inside against the nation’s top shot-blocker and a 7-footer. The Gators hope he can hold up that well throughout the rest of the regular season.

That’s pretty much the only way UF can weather the loss of Will Yeguete and put itself in position to make another deep NCAA tournament run.

[+] EnlargeFlorida's Casey Prather
AP Photo/Phil SandlinCasey Prather scored 12 points and took three charges for the Gators.
"It [stepping in for Yeguete] wasn’t really in the back of my mind," Prather said after scoring 12 points, grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots, and dishing out two assists. "I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could."

The 6-7 Yeguete -- the Gators’ second-leading rebounder, best post defender, and the key to UF’s full-court press -- underwent surgery last Friday to clean out loose bodies in his right knee. Replacing part of Yeguete’s production fell to Prather, and he has embraced the challenge. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the Gators’ rout of Mississippi State last Saturday, but the Bulldogs sit in the SEC’s cellar and have won just seven games. It was going to be a much bigger task to do it against Kentucky and 6-10 Nerlens Noel, the nation’s leading shot-blocker (4.5 per game), and 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein.

Prather not only held his own, he drew three charges and had a big first half to help the Gators rally from a slow start. With Erik Murphy on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls, Prather scored eight points -- two of which came on a dunk in front of Cauley-Stein.

"It's just a matter of confidence with that guy," UF center Patric Young said. "Because, I know he can do that day in and day out. He's just really athletic with really active hands. It was a night where he could show what he can do."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- To celebrate Florida coach Billy Donovan’s 400th victory at the school, Gators center Patric Young lured Donovan into a separate part of the locker room and doused him with a watercooler full of ice water.

Donovan was stunned.

"Basketball coaches don’t have that happen to them very often," he said several moments later. "And I tell you what: That was really, really, really cold. I mean, really cold."

[+] EnlargeBilly Donovan
AP Photo/Phil SandlinBilly Donovan's Florida Gators have yet to allow an SEC opponent to score more than 52 points.
But not as cold as what 10th-ranked Florida did to 17th-ranked Missouri on Saturday afternoon to give Donovan that milestone victory. The Gators dominated the Tigers in an 83-52 victory in front of 12,597 at the O’Connell Center in what was supposed to be a matchup of the top two teams in the SEC.

Florida held Missouri to a season-low 32.7 percent from the floor, forced 21 turnovers and took point guard Phil Pressey -- who was named the league’s preseason player of the year by the media -- completely out of the game. It was yet another stellar defensive performance from the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC), which have yet to allow an SEC opponent to score more than 52 points.

"A 30-point victory against one of the best teams in the SEC -- it was just a great game for us," said Young, who had nine points and eight rebounds. "I know nobody expected that. I’m sure a lot of teams thought they were going to come in here and they were going to upset us. I know they thought they were going to upset us, but we were prepared so well for this game and we really wanted it."

That was evident from the opening tip. Young tapped the ball toward point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who took a couple of dribbles and scored on a layup just four seconds into the game.

It got worse for Missouri (13-4, 2-2) from there. The Gators raced out to an 11-0 lead in the first 3:14, and the Tigers pulled to within single digits only once after that. Missouri committed two turnovers and went 0-for-5 from the field during that opening stretch.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look at No. 10 Florida’s 83-52 victory against No. 17 Missouri on Saturday afternoon at the O’Connell Center:

Overview: This was supposed to be a battle between the SEC's two best teams.

That lasted less than five minutes.

Florida rolled out to a quick start and completely dominated the Tigers. In doing so, the Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC) have pretty much established themselves as the class of the league. Missouri (13-3, 2-2 SEC) was overwhelmed offensively and defensively, and ended up shooting a season-low 32.7 percent from the field.

Florida had four players score in double figures. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin had 13 points and 10 assists, forward Erik Murphy scored 15 points, and guard Kenny Boynton scored 14.

Turning point: How about the game’s first 3:14. Florida raced out to an 11-0 lead during that span, and Missouri only pulled within single digits once after that. Missouri committed two turnovers and went 0-for-5 from the field while Florida went 4-for-5. The Gators scored two baskets in the game’s first minute, including a big dunk by Patric Young, and that got the crowd in the sold-out O’Connell Center into the game pretty quickly.

Key player: Wilbekin had another dominant defensive performance. Two days after shutting down Texas A&M’s Elston Turner, Wilbekin blanketed Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, holding him to two points on 1 of 7 shooting. Pressey, who had been averaging 13.8 points 9.8 assists in his previous six games, had 6 assists and 10 turnovers.

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SEC SCOREBOARD

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