Florida Gators: Scottie Wilbekin

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Fourth-ranked Florida was finally tested in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday night.

The Gators had a little trouble, but they still aced it.

[+] EnlargeScottie Wilbekin
AP Photo/Phil SandlinFlorida's Scottie Wilbekin shoots a 3-pointer on his way to 13 points against Ole Miss.
Florida never trailed and led by double digits for more than 30 minutes in a 78-64 victory over Ole Miss in front of 12,522 at the O’Connell Center. The 14 points was the lowest margin of victory the Gators have had in SEC play -- and they still were never in danger of losing the game.

"This was our toughest game, by far," point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "They didn’t make it easy on us. We had to come out and play our best basketball. They had a lot of different weapons and we just had to try and shut them down."

Florida (18-2, 8-0 SEC) had won its previous seven SEC games by an average of 28.3 points. The Gators had beaten four opponents by 31 or more points and the closest game they had played was a 17-point victory at Georgia -- a team they had beaten by 33 points to open league play.

Florida took a double-digit lead with 10 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the first half and Ole Miss (17-4, 6-2) never got closer than 12 points in the second half. That’s despite getting 25 points from Marshall Henderson, who made 7-of-11 3-pointers. The SEC’s leading scorer had to work for his points, though, and made several leaners and tough shots over Wilbekin and guard Kenny Boynton.

"He’s going to get his shots up," UF forward Erik Murphy said. "He’s going to get to the free-throw line. He’s really good at that. He’s crafty. We just wanted to try to limit his open shots. I think we did a pretty good job of that. He hit some tough ones. Some of the shots he hit, up-and-under, step-in, floater 3s, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody do that."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A quick look at No. 4 Florida’s 78-64 victory over No. 16 Ole Miss on Saturday night at the O’Connell Center:

Overview: This one wasn’t as easy as the previous seven Southeastern Conference games, but the Gators still managed another double-digit victory.

Erik Murphy scored 19 points -- thanks to a 5-for-6 performance from 3-point range -- and grabbed six rebounds. Patric Young had a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Mike Rosario had 14 points.

Ole Miss (17-4, 6-2 SEC) scored the most points on Florida (18-2, 8-0 SEC) since the Gators gave up 67 to Kansas State on Dec. 22. No team had scored more 61 since then. Marshall Henderson led Ole Miss with 25 points.

Turning point: Ole Miss cut Florida’s lead to 13 points with seven minutes remaining, but Murphy responded with a solid two-minute stretch on both ends of the floor that put the game out of reach.

Murphy hit a 3-pointer to put UF ahead 66-50 and then blocked Murphy Holloway’s shot. After a Young basket, Murphy grabbed a defensive rebound. The Gators turned the ball over, but Murphy made up for that by forcing another turnover that led to Scottie Wilbekin’s basket to put UF ahead 70-50 with five minutes to play.

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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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Weekend Watch: Florida-Arizona preview

December, 14, 2012
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Mark Lyons and Kenny BoyntonUSA TODAY Sports, Icon SMIDon't be surprised to see Kenny Boynton, left, and Mark Lyons take crucial shots on Saturday night.
Editor's note: Each Friday morning, Jay Bilas will break down the weekend's top game. This week it’s No. 5 Florida (7-0) at No. 8 Arizona (7-0) at 10 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.

Gators outlook: The difference for Florida this season is defense. Last season, UF gave up 40 percent shooting from 3-point range and got hurt by being overextended. This season, the Gators are staying home more and packing it in. Instead of playing out in passing lanes and denying, they are playing off more, not playing as far up the line, and showing their chests to the ball and building a wall to protect the lane and the rim. That has meant fewer help rotations and better defensive rebounding, limiting opponents to one challenged shot (outrebounding opponents by 10.7 per game). The results are obvious. Florida has a top-five defense, and has done it with both man-to-man and zone. The Gators still press, speed the game and make you play at a speed you don’t practice. And they have done a great job of not just forcing turnovers, but converting off turnovers. Florida has scored more than twice as many points off turnovers as its opponents (21.3 to 9.9).

On the offensive end, UF is a ball-screen team that can really stretch out a defense, and really attacks and gets to the free throw line. Florida has made more free throws than its opponents have attempted. Four Gators average between 14.4 points and 10.3 points per game. This is a team that scored 74 points against Wisconsin, a team that gave up only 53 points per game last season, and blasted Marquette and Florida State.

Florida has good, experienced guards in Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin, a strong presence in Patric Young (an interior player who, when he keeps it simple, can be really effective), and an elite and versatile defender in Will Yeguete, who can defend multiple spots, get offensive rebounds and affect the game without scoring.

Wildcats outlook: Last season, Arizona was not a great shooting team, but could not compensate for it with second-shot opportunities or post-ups because Sean Miller did not have the personnel. This season, he has the personnel. The Wildcats have great size up front and very good depth. (But don’t listen to those who suggest that having big-guy depth gives you extra fouls to waste, which is silly. You don’t waste fouls, which puts your opponent at the free throw line for common fouls and leads to losses.) With freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett, Miller has two big men who can affect the game. Tarczewski is a traditional low-post banger who seeks out contact and can score around the goal, and is the team's top rebounder. Jerrett is a long-armed big man who can step away and knock in an open 3-point shot.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan's decision to suspend PG Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely means the job of directing the Gators' offense will fall to senior Kenny Boynton.

Boynton has run the point in spurts through the past three seasons, mainly in relief of starting PG Erving Walker, who graduated as the school's all-time assist leader. Boynton, who is on pace to become the school's all-time leading scorer, is the Gators' top man defender, so his role there won't change.

The bigger issue for Donovan is finding someone to replace the 6-foot-2 Wilbekin in the starting lineup for Friday's season opener against Georgetown and to relieve Boynton when he's on the bench. Donovan could slide 6-3 Mike Rosario into the shooting guard spot to go along with 6-9 C Patric Young, 6-10 F Erik Murphy and 6-7 F Will Yeguete.

Or Donovan could go with 6-6 freshman Michael Frazier, who scored 21 points in UF's exhibition victory over Nebraska-Kearney. Even if Rosario starts, Wilbekin's suspension will mean more playing time for Frazier and two other freshmen: 6-4 Dillon Graham and 6-0 Braxton Ogbueze. The Gators cannot use 6-6 G/F Casey Prather on Friday because he is out with a concussion.

"This throws a wrench," Donovan said. "We've got to do some things in practice to make some adjustments going into this game.

"The biggest thing for me as a coach is how do I get these guys to understand what they're doing because there's going to be a lot of different lineups on the floor."

Donovan has a track record of successfully juggling lineups. He got the Gators to the Elite Eight last season after losing Yeguete -- the Gators' top post defender and key cog in their press -- to a broken foot in February.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan was upbeat on Friday during the news conference announcing Bradley Beal's decision to enter the NBA Draft.

[+] EnlargeBradley Beal
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesGators coach Billy Donovan said he will miss Bradley Beal's team-first attitude and work ethic.
He is obviously sad to see Beal leave, but Donovan shouldn't be devastated for two reasons: He knows things could have been a lot worse, and he had been planning for just this situation.

As the season ended with a loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight, there was speculation the Gators would lose four of their five starters. Erving Walker is graduating, but Beal, Patric Young and Kenny Boynton were also considering leaving. Young and Boynton, however, elected to stay, which means the Gators will have one of the Southeastern Conference's top scorers and big men on the floor in 2012-13.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When Florida lost Will Yeguete to a broken foot in late February, Billy Donovan knew his team was going to have to undergo a makeover.

[+] EnlargeWill Yeguete
Kim Klement/US PresswireFlorida forward Will Yeguete broke his foot against Auburn on Feb. 21.
Guards Bradley Beal, Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin would have to spend time at power forward to make up for the loss of the Gators’ best rebounder and post defender. UF wouldn’t be as big inside or rebound as well as when the 6-foot-7 Yeguete was on the floor, but using a four-guard lineup would put more 3-point shooters on the floor and allow the Gators to play more in transition.

But reshaping his team’s identity wasn’t going to be that simple. There was so much else for Donovan to consider:

" How would center Patric Young handle playing without his best friend and roommate?

" How do you defend while using the four-guard lineup, especially against a team that has a powerful front court, like Kentucky with Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones?

" How do you avoid becoming predictable offensively when there are four guards and forward Erik Murphy – who at 6-10 is UF’s best 3-point shooter (43.1 percent) – on the floor?

" And, perhaps most importantly, how do the players respond mentally to the challenge of having to do it all during the final weeks of the regular season and into the post-season?

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kentucky, once again, is perfect.

The top-ranked Wildcats capped off their third 16-0 season in Southeastern Conference play on Sunday afternoon with a rout over 13th-ranked Florida at the O'Connell Center. Kentucky (30-1) also had 16-0 conference records in 1996 and 2003.

Kentucky got 22 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks from freshman Anthony Davis and 19 points from Terrence Jones to win its fourth game in a row over Florida (22-9, 10-6). The Wildcats have won eight of their past 10 meetings with the Gators.

Player of the game: Jones went 9-for-13 from the field and added four rebounds and two steals to go along with his 19 points. He scored Kentucky's first eight points and pretty much had his way with Florida's Erik Murphy. Jones, a preseason All-American and the SEC's preseason Player of the Year, also made his only 3-point attempt.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After five months of hoping senior point guard Erving Walker would become Florida's vocal on-court leader, coach Billy Donovan has decided he's going to look somewhere else.

Whether it's sophomore center Patric Young, sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin, or freshman guard Bradley Beal, Donovan wants one of them -- or a combination of the three -- to become the player who huddles the team in critical situations, keeps them focused when things aren't going well, and ensures that the 13th-ranked Gators (22-7, 10-4 Southeastern Conference) play with a high level of passion and energy. Walker didn't do any of that in Saturday's loss at Georgia.

"Erving is a really good player and he’s done a lot of great things," Donovan said Monday. "He’s a pretty even-keeled guy, but there are sometimes where your team can reflect the personality of the guy in charge, and with him being in charge and when things are not going well for our team, there is sometimes that we need some more fire out of him.

"Especially when you play on the road, it’s hostile, it’s loud, someone has got to get in there and grab each other and say, 'This is what we’re doing,' and, 'Move on to the next play,' and there’s not a lot of that. Erving has always been a kid since I’ve coached him here [who] has always tried to do on the court playing-wise what I’ve asked him to do. He’s always been very compliant, he’s coachable, he’s a great kid, he does all of that stuff. But some of the stuff that could take our team to a different level, I’m not so sure he’s capable or wants to."

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Florida hoping for help from Larson

February, 24, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Replacing Florida forward Will Yeguete, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his left foot, will have to be a concerted group effort, coach Billy Donovan said Friday.

Some of the burden will fall to Casey Prather, Bradley Beal and Scottie Wilbekin, but the 11th-ranked Gators (22-6, 10-3 SEC) are also going to need a significant contribution from Cody Larson. Based on what the 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman forward/center has done over the past few weeks, Donovan is confident Larson will be able to help on defense.

"He gave us some good quality minutes at Alabama," Donovan said. "I played him on the road at Arkansas when Erik [Murphy] and Patric [Young] were in foul trouble. One thing I have total trust and confidence in is he knows what he’s doing defensively, and he's pretty good, and he'll physically battle and he'll do some things inside."

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Yeguete out with broken foot

February, 21, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's Will Yeguete limped off the court, sat down on the bench, and took the sneaker off his left foot.

He pointed to a spot below his ankle on the outside of his foot for Florida trainer Duke Werner to examine. Moments later, he hobbled off into the locker room -- for what may be the last time this season.

The 6-foot-7, 222-pound reserve forward suffered a broken bone in his foot and is out indefinitely, according to team spokesperson Denver Parlor. It's a sobering development that dulled the 11th-ranked Gators' 63-47 victory over Auburn in front of 10,150 at the O'Connell Center Tuesday night. Yeguete had just returned from missing one game (Alabama) because of a concussion he suffered against Tennessee on Feb. 11.

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Gators a mess in frontcourt

February, 13, 2012
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[+] EnlargeWill Yeguete
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe absence of sophomore Will Yeguete has become a major issue for Florida.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan said Saturday night that the Gators were not a hardened team because they haven't gone through much adversity.

Looks like the Gators are packing a season's worth in the next week.

Florida will be without forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and guard Mike Rosario (hip) and forward Cody Larson (illness) will be limited for Tuesday's game at Alabama, and Donovan said Yeguete also will be out for Saturday's game at Arkansas and he is unsure when Yeguete will be able to return.

That leaves the Gators severely shorthanded in the frontcourt, and it will force Donovan to use smaller lineups and play guard/forward Casey Prather and guards Bradley Beal and Scottie Wilbekin at power forward. Donovan will only have two days to get those three to understand the different defensive responsibilities in the press and zone, figure out where they're supposed to provide help defense, and get them to understand their roles on offense.

"Dire is probably a pretty good word," Donovan. "I’m not saying our team is not impacted by Will not being able to play, but that’s the hand we’re dealt. How do we play? How do we compete? What kind of presence and disposition do we carry? How unified and connected? All those things are much, much more important because you can play really, really hard and really, really well and be undermanned and still fall short."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Erving Walker scored 12 points -- including eight of Florida's final 10 -- and Erik Murphy scored a team-high 15 to lead the Gators to their 16th consecutive home victory on Saturday evening.

No. 14 Florida (15-4, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) shot a season-high 56.3 percent from the field (27-of-48), including a 6-for-7 performance by Murphy. Walker went 3-for-9 from the field but went 5-for-7 from the free-throw line.

LSU (12-7, 2-3) cut UF's lead to eight points with 7:04 remaining, but Walker hit two free throws, Scottie Wilbekin made a layup, and the Tigers never got closer than eight points again.

Player of the game: LSU center Justin Hamilton scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He had nine points and three rebounds in the first half.

Stat of the game: Florida shot 63.6 percent from the field in the first half (14-of-22). That included a 3-for-8 performance from the 3-point line.

Streak busted: Guard Kenny Boynton failed to make a 3-pointer for the first time since Jan. 29, 2011. That was a streak of 34 consecutive games, which was the second-longest in school history. Boynton went 0-for-4 from 3-point range. Lee Humphrey holds the record with at least one 3-pointer in 39 consecutive games.

Noteworthy: Center Patric Young did not start for the second consecutive game because of tendonitis in his ankle. He scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds coming off the bench. Will Yeguete started in Young's place. ... UF outscored LSU 26-14 over the final 11 minutes of the first half to take a 38-26 lead into the break. ... Florida tied its season low by making seven 3-pointers. UF also made seven against Arizona, Tennessee and Georgia. The Gators have failed to make at least 10 3-pointers in a game six times.

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