Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Slow-starting Gators move into SEC semifinal

ATLANTA — Florida's struggles for most of Friday's SEC tournament quarterfinal against Missouri might have surprised many, but coach Billy Donovan wasn't among them. He saw it coming from a mile away.

Donovan said a multitude of factors, including a six-day layoff and a Tuesday scrimmage he described as "awful," led him to believe his top-ranked team might struggle against the Tigers.

And for nearly 28 minutes, it was a struggle. But a 12-0 run midway through the second half eventually led to a 72-49 victory over the No. 8-seeded Tigers at the Georgia Dome.

Florida (30-2) now has three 30-win seasons under Donovan, and the victory extended its win streak to 24 games.

The No. 1-seeded Gators play Tennessee today in the semifinals. UF beat the Vols 67-41 at home on Jan. 25 and 67-58 in Knoxville on Feb. 11.

Against Missouri (22-11), a hustle play by point guard Scottie Wilbekin sparked Florida.

Florida forward Will Yeguete hit a layup to put it up 40-36 with 10:04 left. Wilbekin then stole Keanau Post's inbound and passed to Yeguete. Yeguete sent it back to Wilbekin who hit a 3-point shot.

"The referee's count was coming down, so I knew that (Missouri guard Jabari) Brown was going to try to make a break for the ball," Wilbekin said. "I was able to get there before him and save it to Will."

"That's what Scottie does. He makes plays," Florida guard Kasey Hill said. "That definitely lifted us up, and everybody else wanted to play harder after that."

From there, the Gators outscored the Tigers 34-13.

Wilbekin and guard Michael Frazier led the Gators with 15 points, and forward Dorian Finney-Smith added 10. Frazier, a Tampa native, became the first Gator to have eight games with at least five 3-pointers in a season. The Gators made 12 of 21 3-pointers and held Missouri to 1-of-13.

"There were just 11 minutes to go in the second half, and they were shooting 31 percent," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "I thought we were just grinding it. They made shots and got it going a little bit. They did what they do."

Florida opened the game with three turnovers and an air ball and shot 9-of-26 in the first half.

"I think it was us not coming in here with the right mind-set," Finney-Smith said. "In the second half we really picked it up and we started playing for one another. I think guys weren't ready to play. It just looked like we were a step behind in the first half."

Donovan said he was particularly disappointed in the first-half play of his seniors. Florida was outscored 16-6 inside the paint, and center Patric Young and forward Casey Prather were a combined 1-for-7.

"I thought the guys did a good job, especially the older guys, regrouping in the second half in the locker room," Donovan said. "They showed some resiliency and some fight and some battle there in the second half."

Antonya English can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @TBTimes_Gators.

Slow-starting Gators move into SEC semifinal 03/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December


    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.

  2. Is Mikhail Sergachev, who debuts with Lightning at Wednesday camp, ready for the NHL?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — When defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was taken ninth overall by the Canadiens in the 2016 NHL draft, a horde of Montreal media surrounded him for his first news conference.

    Mikhail Sergachev takes a shot during warmups prior to a game between the Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes in October in Montreal. [Getty Images]
  3. Top pick Brendan McKay signing with Rays for $7M bonus


    The Rays are set to sign top pick 1B/LHP Brendan McKay for a bonus just over $7-million, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

    The deal is expected to be finalized …

    Brendan McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.
  4. Vince Young takes shot at Bucs' Ryan Fitzpatrick


    Former NFL quarterback Vince Young, out of the league since 2011 and complaining about not getting more opportunities to prolong his career, took a shot at new Bucs backup Ryan Fitzpatrick in a story posted at …

    Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed with the Bucs to be Jameis Winston's backup this fall, has played for six other NFL teams in his 12 seasons in the league.