More than six months removed from from Florida’s Final Four loss against Connecticut, Florida junior guard Michael Frazier II is still having a hard time accepting it.
Frazier was among the most devastated players in the locker room following UF’s 63-53 loss to the Huskies. The loss snapped UF’s 30-game win streak and ended the season at 36-3, two wins shy of a national title.
“I still got that sour taste in my mouth from that game,” Frazier said at SEC basketball media days. “Not even the fact that we lost, but I didn’t think we played as well as we were capable of playing.”
Florida failed to hold an early 16-4 in the game and shot just 38.8 percent from the floor and 10 percent (1-10) from 3-point range. Things started to go south when point guard Scottie Wilbekin came up with cramping issues throughout the game. Frazier made an early 3-pointer but finished just 1-3 from the floor as he was blanketed by UConn guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier. It was enough for the seventh-seeded Huskies to pull the upset over the Gators, the top-ranked overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“That really hurt because I don’t feel like they beat us,” Frazier said. “I feel like we lost the game on our behalf, because I think we were a better team but it didn’t turn out our way.”
The Gators will get a chance to extract some revenge when they host UConn on Jan. 3 in the finale of a home-and-home series. Florida lost 65-64 last season at UConn on a last-second shot by Napier before going on its 30-game win streak.
“We have to move on,” Frazier said. “That was last year so we got to move on to this year and be the best team we can be this year.”
Other leftovers from SEC Media Day:
— Florida coach Billy Donovan downplayed the notion that sophomore forward Chris Walker is in his doghouse due a three-game suspension to start the season. Walker will sit out Florida’s exhibition game Nov. 6 vs. Barry and regular season games against William & Mary (Nov. 14) and Miami (Nov. 17). “He’s been fine,” Donovan said. “It’s something in the past. It’s happened a while ago and we’ve dealt with it right now. ” Donovan said that the 6-foot-10 Walker has continued to practice well and is getting a better grasp of UF’s system: ” He’s made some really positive strides, but you know, it’s gone from crawling to walking, you know, as an over-excited parent, you see a kid walking, and you say ‘wow’. He needs to run, do that now. He’s come a long way in a positive way but we still need him to grow.” Walker wasn’t cleared to play by the NCAA until February last season and averaged just 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds in 18 games off the bench. “He’s probably in a lot of ways made a bigger jump than anybody on our team compared to where he was at,” Donovan said. “But where he is at right now is still not where we need him to be for us to be a good team.”
— Donovan said that junior guard Eli Carter, who began practicing on Monday after sitting out the weekend with a bone bruise in his ankle, looked good. Carter, a Rutgers transfer, sat out last season on a medical redshirt while recovering from a broken leg. “I was a little concerned about his conditioning because he had missed eight or 10 days but doesn’t seem to be affected there,” Donovan said. “He’s looked good. He’s got some things to learn because he’s missed a few days. Overall, I was probably a little more concerned with how he was moving in relationship to where he was a year ago. I see that he’s much, much better there.”
— Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said he’s be “honored” to be at the losing end of Donovan’s 500th career win. It could happen. Donovan is 14 wins shy of 500 and Auburn is the 16th game on UF’s schedule (Jan. 15, O’Connell Center). “Billy, if he’s not the best in our business, he’s right there,” Pearl said. “Coaches want to stay away from that question because if you say someone you hurt someone else’s feelings.” Pearl is 8-5 against Donovan, but has lost the last four meetings between the two coaches. “Coach (Rick) Pitino was the toughest I went up against,” Pearl said. “He was in my huddle, he was in my head and he’s a great, great coach. But Billy is right there. I’m just glad he’s still in the league. A Billy Donovan-less SEC would be not nearly as good as what it is. He just represents everything that’s good about coaching and coaching student-athletes.