Gators set school record with 25th straight home win
Published: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 8:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 11:24 p.m.
Closing in on a school record, Florida coach Billy Donovan implored his team to keep shooting.
Eventually, the shots fell in UF’s 72-50 win over Georgia at the O’Connell Center. Behind smothering defense, Florida built a 20-point halftime lead. But the Gators finished the Bulldogs off with six straight 3-pointers during a 4:32 stretch late in the second half.
When sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith hit the sixth straight 3-pointer, putting Florida up 70-39 with 3:00 remaining, Donovan was able to empty his bench. Not long after that, Florida celebrated its 25th straight home victory, a new school record. Florida’s previous school record was 24 straight at home from March 1, 2006 to Nov. 23, 2007, during UF’s back-to-back national championship seasons.
“The guys that won that many in a row obviously did some really special things,” Donovan said. “These guys haven’t won national championships, but they’ve done special things as well and I’m proud of them. It’s a good milestone.”
Added senior forward Will Yeguete, who had a season-high 12 points and six rebounds: “It means a lot. I think to do something special, especially for our seniors, we’ve been here for a while so I guess you can say we’re leaving kind of a mark here. It’s a good feeling.”
Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II led the No. 7 Gators (14-2, 3-0 SEC) with a career-high 21 points, but it took a while for him to get going. Frazier started 1 of 8 from 3-point range before making four in a row during UF’s 6-for-6 stretch.
For Frazier, the 1-for-8 start from beyond the arc was uncharacteristic, considering he came into the game shooting an SEC-best 48.1 percent from 3-point range.
“Sometimes he misses a couple — and it’s like he’s keeping inventory,” Donovan said. “The guy is shooting 50 percent from the 3-point line, he’s got to keep letting them go and it will even itself out. He closes out great. He’s got to understand he’s got a responsibility to himself and his team that he’s got to shoot the ball with confidence.”
To regain some confidence, Frazier said he needed some prodding from his teammates and from UF assistant coach Matt McCall.
“My teammates were like, ‘the next one is going in.’ Coach McCall was like, ‘the next one is going in,’” Frazier said. “The coaches told me to play with confidence, so I had no choice but to do it.”
When Frazier hit three 3-pointers in a row to get the streak started, it spread to the rest of the team. Freshman point guard Kasey Hill followed with a 3-pointer, snapping an 0-for-12 drought from beyond the arc to put UF up 64-37. One more 3-pointer from Frazier and one from Finney-Smith finished off Georgia.
Overall, the Gators made a season-high 11 3-pointers and shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc, their best shooting day since shooting 43.6 percent against Memphis (7 of 16). Hill and starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin (seven points, five assists) were both effective in driving and kicking to open shooters. Florida finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 18 to 8.
“We’re getting better,” Donovan said. “The press helped us a little bit with our assists because we had some open-floor situations. The biggest thing if you look at our guards (they had) 10 assists to zero turnovers combined — 10 assists, no turnovers, which helps.”
Patric Young added 10 points and nine rebounds to help lead the Gators to their eighth straight win. Finney-Smith had 14 points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench.
Like in its last home game against South Carolina, Florida overwhelmed Georgia (8-7, 2-1 SEC) early with its defensive pressure. Down 6-4 early, Florida responded with a 26-4 run to take a 30-10 lead. The Gators scored 16 points off 12 first-half Georgia turnovers to build a 36-16 halftime lead. UF’s press forced four straight Georgia turnovers during a first-half stretch.
Florida held Georgia point guard Charles Mann to just eight points and forced him into five turnovers. Mann had averaged 20 points in Georgia wins over Missouri and Alabama to earn SEC player of the week honors last week.
Georgia forward Marcus Thornton gave a nod to Florida’s announced crowd of 12,051 at the O’Connell Center, particularly UF’s student section.
“We played in a similar environment at Missouri, but Missouri’s students weren’t as bad,” Thornton said. “We knew it was going to be tough, but we didn’t get it done.”
FREE THROWS: Florida basketball trainer Dave “Duke” Werner said the goal is to have Florida senior Casey Prather ready for UF’s next game Saturday at Auburn. But Werner said the Gators will take a cautious approach with the 6-foot-6 forward if needed. Werner said Prather had swelling in his knee last week. It wasn’t drained, but Werner said he was able to get the swelling to subside through treatment. “There is always the fear of re-injury so we just want to be extra careful before he’s back out there,” Werner said. The Gators are now 2-0 without Prather, UF’s leading scorer at 17 ppg. … Former Gator forward Erik Murphy was at the O’Dome and received a nice ovation when he was recognized over the public address system in the second half. In his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, Murphy was in the area because the Bulls play at the Orlando Magic tonight. … Florida held a beard night promotion for Young, with the first 1,000 students in the student section receiving orange beards to wear for the game.