Gators begin four-game gauntlet vs. FSU

Sophomore Michael Frazier II and the Florida Gators enter a four-game stretch tonight against Florida State, No. 13 Connecticut, No. 2 Kansas and No. 21 Memphis. (The Associated Press/File)

Published: Friday, November 29, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 at 12:03 a.m.

Call it the ferocious foursome.


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Who: No. 15 Florida Gators (5-1) vs. Florida State Seminoles (5-1)
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville
Gainesville-area TV: ESPN2
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850, 103.7 FM

Beginning tonight at home against Florida State, Florida will face a stretch of four straight games against high-level, major conference competition. After FSU, Florida will play Monday at No. 13 Connecticut, Dec. 10 at home against No. 2 Kansas and Dec. 17 in New York City against No. 21 Memphis.

“It's going to be a grind,” Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II said. “That's all I can say. We're going to have to practice, work, get better and try to improve.”

Last season, Florida had a similar non-conference gauntlet, going 2-1 against Marquette, at Florida State and at Arizona. Florida coach Billy Donovan has put together challenging non-conference schedules since 2010 in an effort to prepare his team better for Southeastern Conference play. It has paid dividends in March. The Gators have reached the Elite Eight in each of the last three seasons.

Donovan said the Gators will have some flexibility to prepare for the four-game stretch because it is stretched out over 19 days.

“We have time in between each game to prepare for it,” Donovan said. “We'll just go one game at a time right now. We'll get into the same situation when we get into the SEC with the conference schedule. I always think the conference schedule is a battle, home or away, so certainly for us this is a challenging stretch coming up.”

Florida State (5-1) is arriving to the O'Connell Center with some confidence after a strong showing last week at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Seminoles upset No. 10 VCU 85-67 and took No. 13 Michigan to overtime before falling 82-80.

“Any time you play that level of competition it challenges you, it brings a little more out of you,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Hamilton has been pleased with the progress of sophomore guards Montay Brandon and Devon Bookert. But as a coach that puts a high premium on defense, Hamilton would like to see the Seminoles defend better. Florida State comes into its matchup with Florida allowing 67.5 points per game.

“We've been tested a little bit,” Hamilton said. “We've had some moments where we've played very good defense and we've had moments where I'd like to forget, I'd like to burn part of the film.”

Donovan is concerned about the challenge that Florida State presents.

“They are a very, very long and athletic team,” Donovan said. “They are playing very good basketball. They have played well all year long. They've got some experience. They've got some young guys. They can play really big if they want to or they can go with a small lineup.”

Florida's defense received a boost with the return of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. The Gators rank first in the Southeastern Conference and 18th in the SEC in scoring defense at 59.3 points per game.

But Florida should find out much more about the quality of its defense in the coming weeks.

“It's going to be a real test for us to see where we're at,” Wilbekin said. “(Point guard) Kasey (Hill) is out, and I don't know when he's going to be back. We have to make due with what we have and hopefully he'll get back soon and we can be full strength.”

FREE THROWS: Tonight's UF-FSU basketball game is being played the night before the Florida-Florida State football game for the first time since 2007. Hamilton has traditionally preferred scheduling the Florida-FSU game in Tallahassee during the first week in December. “I just personally like it around the football weekend because I think it's great for our fans,” Donovan said.


G Michael Frazier II 6-4 So. 14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg

G Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Sr. 12.0 ppg, 7.0 apg

F Casey Prather 6-6 Sr. 19.2 ppg, 60 rpg

F Will Yeguete 6-7 Sr. 5.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg

C Patric Young 6-9 Sr. 10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg


G Montay Brandon 6-7 So. 11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg

G Devon Bookert 6-3 So. 13.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg

F Robert Gilchrist Sr. 6-9 7.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg

F Okaro White Sr. 6-9 14.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg

C Boris Bojanovsky 7-3 So. 3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg

Notes: Florida leads the all-time series against Florida State 42-22 and has won the last four meetings with the Seminoles. … Florida coach Billy Donovan is 7-4 against current FSU coach Leonard Hamilton. … Florida sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith is averaging 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds off the bench in four games. Finney-Smith posted his fourth career double-double and first at UF with 14 points and 11 rebounds last Monday at Jacksonville. … The Gators have won 19 straight home games… Florida C Patric Young has scored in double figures in each of UF's four games. … Florida forward Casey Prather is just one of three Gators under Billy Donovan to notch three games scoring 27 points or more in a season, joining Nick Calathes (2008-09) and Teddy Dupay (2000-01). … Florida State returns four starters from a team that finished 18-16 last season and 9-9 in the ACC.

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