UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Remembering the ride
Published: Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 11:50 p.m.
It was Weezer who sang, “Memories, make me want to go back there, back there.” The 2013-14 season was one Gator fans will remember for a long time. Three pairs of nets were cut down, three trophies were added to the display case and scores of individual awards were hauled in by a special team and their coach. Here are the top-10 memories during the 30-game winning streak for Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley from this season:
1. Pure joy.
Where: Memphis, Tenn.
Score: Florida 62, Dayton 52,
The scene: This was the Hump Game for the Gators. In the last three years, they had reached the Elite Eight only to be denied a trip to the Final Four. To see the joy on the faces of the players when the clock hit 0:00 was unforgettable. "The struggles that we went through this year have just made it that much more fun and brought us that much closer together," Scottie Wilbekin said after the game. "Throughout the season, each game has just gotten more and more fun. I'm having the most fun I've ever had in my life right now."
Vital stat: This game was won at the free-throw line where Florida made 21-of-28 to Dayton's 6-of-8.
2. S-E-C! S-E-C!.
Where: Atlanta, Ga.
Score: Florida 62, Kentucky 61.
The scene: Florida had already beaten Kentucky twice handily during the regular season and the day before the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari said, “I've had all I want of Florida.” And it looked like more of the same in the SEC tournament final when Florida led by 15 midway through the second half. But Kentucky went on a run to cut the lead to one and had the ball for the final shot. James Young went around a pick too fast and slipped, losing the ball and Scottie Wilbekin dove on it as the clock ran out. “In our last Kentucky game there was a loose ball and I didn't dive on it,” Wilbekin said. “Will (Yeguete) and Casey (Prather) yelled at me for not diving on the ball and I felt bad. So I thought about that and there was no way I wasn't going to dive on it this game.”
Vital stat:Florida limited the Wildcats to 35.3 percent shooting for the game.
3. Perfect finish.
Score: Florida 84, Kentucky 65.
The scene: The Gators had already clinched the SEC regular-season crown, but they wanted to finish with the first 18-0 SEC record. And it was Senior Day, adding to the emotions. Florida handled Kentucky in the first half to lead by 21 points. The Wildcats made a 15-0 run, but could never got closer than six as Florida pulled away again. “You know, when I was in Little League, we went 21-0,” Patric Young said. “But this is another level.”
Vital stat: Florida dominated the boards against the physical Wildcats, getting 32 defensive rebounds including seven each by Young and Will Yeguete.
4. The comeback.
Score: Florida 71, Auburn 66.
The scene: Nobody thought Auburn would be the team to end the winning streak, but the Tigers took advantage of a listless Gator team to lead by eight at the half. Auburn led for most of the second half until Michael Frazier II made a big 3. After an Auburn miss, the Tigers inexplicably fouled Patric Young. “I've been making up scenarios (in practice),” he said. “Like opportunity to go to the Final Four with free throws as a winner. I just told myself to be great, strive to be great. And I swished them like it was nothing.” Auburn then threw the inbounds pass out of bounds and Florida survived.
Vital stat: Young had no points at halftime, but finished the game with 17 points and six rebounds.
5. The running 3.
Score: Florida 61, Pitt 45.
The scene: Florida knew it would be in for a battle against Pittsburgh and the Gators were, up only three with seconds left on the first-half clock. After fouling Scottie Wilbekin on the inbounds play, the Panthers missed him the second time and he sprinted down court to launch a 25-footer on the run. It hit nothing but net and Florida cruised in the second half. “I really don't shoot many running 3s,” said the senior point guard. “But it went in and I was pretty happy about it.” The win sent Florida to the Sweet 16 in Memphis.
Vital stat: Wilbekin finished the game with 21 points and only one turnover and made three huge baskets down the stretch.
6. GameDay glory.
Where: Lexington, Ky.
Score: Florida 69, Kentucky 59.
The scene: The ESPN boys were in town for a big game between the Wildcats, who were in need of a big win, and the No. 3 Gators. The game lived up to the hype. Florida struggled early and Kentucky had a seven-point lead in the second half in an arena where John Calipari had lost just twice in 83 games. But the Gators rallied in the last 10 minutes — thanks in part to a technical on Calipari — to put the game away for their 17th straight win.
Vital stat: Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin scored 47 of Florida's 69 points in the game.
7. OT, oh my.
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
Score: Florida 84, Arkansas 82.
The scene:Florida had been clobbered by the Razorbacks in its last trip to Fayetteville and it looked as if the Razorbacks would win again. But Scottie Wilbekin drove the lane and pulled up for a clutch banking shot that tied the game with two seconds to play and forced overtime. Florida won the extra session in front of 18,000 fans ending, Arkansas' 23-game home winning streak. "It means a lot to us," Dorian Finney-Smith said. "It tells you about our team. We play for each other.”
Vital stat: Finney-Smith, starting in the place of injured Casey Prather, had a career-high 22 points and 15 rebounds in the win.
8. Frazier's barrage.
Where: Columbia, S.C.
Score: Florida 72, South Carolina 46.
The scene: The Gamecocks were coming off a home-court win over Kentucky, so the Gators knew South Carolina was capable of ending their winning streak. Up only two at the half, the Gators unleashed Michael Frazier II, who made a school-record 11 3-point shots. On his 10th, someone from the South Carolina student section threw a towel on the floor for a technical foul. "We were just really amazed at how open he was getting and how he kept knocking them down," Patric Young said. Frazier finished with 37 points.
Vital stat: The Gators needed Frazier's shooting. The rest of the team went 0-for-13 on 3s.
9. Super Pat.
Where: Knoxville, Tenn.
Score: Florida 67, Tennessee 58.
The scene: The Vols needed a win to pad their NCAA tournament resume and the crowd was amped for the Gators coming to town. The Vols led at the half, but a couple of 3s by Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II gave Florida the lead. Late in the game, Patric Young flew through the air between two Vols to secure the ball and allow Florida to run time off the clock. “Our coaches always talk about making winning plays,” Young said. “I think that goes down as a textbook winning play.”
Vital stat: Wilbekin finished the game with 21 points and made 10-of-12 free throws.
10. Early success.
Score: Florida 67, Kansas 61.
The scene: We didn't know much about this Florida team when Kansas came to town. The Gators had lost twice and were coming off a tough loss to UConn. But Florida jumped out to an 18-point halftime lead. The Jayhawks rallied behind Andrew Wiggins' 26 points, but Florida held on to start what would be a 30-game winning streak. Scottie Wilbekin, playing eight days after suffering a sprained ankle, had 18 points, six assists and four steals. “After (UConn), I knew he was eager to come out and play well,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He was pretty focused. He always plays really hard.”
Vital stat: Florida turned Kansas over 24 times in the game, leading to 32 points off turnovers.
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