Sunday January 19, 2014Basket Blog: Frazier, Prather, Bonner, 4-0 starts, etc.
Updated: 11:08pm, January 19
Updated: 11:08pm, January 19
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As he left the Florida locker room Saturday night and shuffled toward the team bus, Michael Frazier II heard his name called.
We had to talk.
Frazier smiled. He almost made a clean getaway.
“I’m good,” the sophomore shooting guard said after his first scoreless game of the season. “You’re going to have nights like this. I’m just glad we got the win.”
The seventh-ranked Gators fought off Auburn for a 68-61 victory with Frazier, the Southeastern Conference’s leader in 3-point percentage coming in (47.3), attempting just two shots. It was quite the contrast from last Feb. 16 when Frazier went to Auburn Arena and torched the Tigers by going 6-for-7 from the arc and pacing UF’s torrid 15-for-30 team marksmanship out there in a 31-point wipeout.
It was different, even, than four nights earlier against Georgia when Frazier (pictured right) started 1-for-8 from 3-point land that shredded the Bulldogs with four straight over four minutes on his way to a career-high 21 points.
Clearly, Auburn coach Tony Barbee marked Frazier as a defensive priority. If Florida was going to beat his team, it wasn’t going to be with Frazier bombing away.
“They weren’t leaving me at all,” said Frazier, who tried to move to open spots and give point guard Scottie Wilbekin a pass-out target, but Auburn defenders extended out on him across the arc. “They weren’t dropping down to help [on the drives]. I heard the coach saying, ‘No catch! No catch!’ They were pressing up on me and not letting me get the ball.”
Frazier two shots were both 3-point tries. Both were contested. One was an air ball.
Such is life for a marked man.
That was exactly the point Coach Billy Donovan’s made to his shooter in both the halftime and post-game locker room.
“Great lesson for him,” Donovan said afterward. “He’s got to understand that teams are going to come after him, so he’ll have to work and find some other places to impact the game. I think he got frustrated and, maybe, mentally taken out of it. But he’s got to keep playing. He can still help our team elsewhere.”
Added Frazier: “I have to do a better job of controlling my frustration. I let it affect me too much on the [defensive] end of the floor. And I never got into a rhythm because I was getting pulled in and out of the game.”
Frazier is as coachable as anyone on the team, so after his most lifeless outing of the season -- the last time he went without a point was the Elite Eight loss against Michigan last March -- he’ll try to learn from the experience and move on.
It’ll be a lot easier to do so after posting a ninth straight victory.
“That says something about this team and the character of the guys we have,” Frazier said. “It wasn’t my night, but other guys stepped up. Maybe down the line, when it’s not someone else’s night, maybe I’ll be the one picking them up.”
WAS HE EVER HURT?
At Saturday’s pre-game meal, Donovan stood over his players and told them it would be unfair to expect senior forward Casey Prather, the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, to return to the court against Auburn and pick where he left off before injuring his knee the week before. Donovan and his staff did not know how much Prather would play, but the Gators could not lean too heavily on him. That was the message.
“I felt great going into the game,” Prather said. “I couldn’t wait to get out there.”
Prather (pictured above) hopped off the bench to score 16 points in the first half, making his first six shots, on the way to leading the Gators with 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” senior center Patric Young said. “The guy said he was ready to go.
With UF’s next game not until Thursday at Alabama -- the team’s first of two straight weekends of SEC Thursday-Saturday turnarounds -- Prather might even be at full strength for the Crimson Tide.
That was sarcasm, by the way.
Prather is now averaging 17.3 points and his .636 field-goal percentage leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation. If Prather hits his average Thursday at 'Bama, it'll give him 276 points this season and would match his total for the three previous seasons combined.
Yeah, it's nice to have him back.
Frazier’s scoreless game was his first this season, but he had six last year as a freshman. Of the UF four-man senior class -- Young, Wilbekin, Prather and Will Yeguete -- who has the longest streak without a scoreless game? Answer below in the "Free Throws" section.
Matt Bonner isn’t playing much for the San Antonio Spurs in this, his 10th NBA season. But the former UF forward and 3-point shooter made a splash last week at the team’s annual “Tux N Tennies” charity ball, a fundraiser to benefit the franchise's Silver & Black Give Back Foundation.
The program features players taking part in skits and Bonner won the talent contest by going totally old school. The “Red Mamba,” as Kobe Bryant calls him, reached back into the archives of “Saturday Night Live” and performed a takeoff of Andy Kaufman’s classic character/nervous wreck “Foreign Man,” copying his lip-synching to the theme of the “Mighty Mouse” cartoon. Kaufman did his on his "SNL" debut in 1975.
As Deadspin pointed out in its story, Bonner certainly stepped out of the box with his choice of material. There couldn’t have been more than a handful in the audience that recalled Kaufman’s act from nearly four decades ago, but he pulled off some pretty sophisticated humor to rave reviews.
Here’s Kaufman's original and Bonner’s version.
@GatorZoneChris getting lots of ESPNU play with his shots of the Patric Young orange beard, including one on Tim Tebow statue.— Joey Johnston (@JJohnstonTBO) January 15, 2014
CHARTING THE GATORS
Florida is off to its second straight 4-0 start in SEC play. It’s the eighth time UF has opened a conference campaign with four straight wins, the fifth time in Donovan's 18 seasons. Here’s how the Gators went on to fare the previous times.
YEAR STREAK FIRST LOSS FINISHED SEC
1961 5-0 @Kentucky 9-5 4th
1967 7-0 Tennessee 14-4 2nd
1987 4-0 @Kentucky 12-6 2nd
1994 4-0 @Alabama 12-4 T-1st East
2002 4-0 Georgia 10-6 T-1st in East
2003 7-0 @Kentucky 12-4 2nd in East
2007 11-0 @Vanderbilt 13-3 1st
2013 7-0 @Arkansas 14-4 1st
IRREVERENT GATOR PHOTO
Kids, do not try this at home.
Interesting anecdote about Auburn guard Chris Denson, who was terrific in scoring 21 points and keeping the Tigers in the game Saturday. Denson (pictured at the top guarding Frazier) was not highly recruited out of Columbus, Ga., and tried to shop his services to various programs in the region. He came to UF in 2011 and played pick-up with Erving Walker, Kenny Boyton, Chandler Parsons and that crop of Gators in a tryout of sorts in hopes of drawing interest from Donovan and his staff. For Denson, it didn't work out at Florida, but he's done quite well in leading in the SEC in scoring as a senior. ... As if hardcore Gators aren't aware, the Tennessee Volunteers -- who will test UF's record 25-game winning streak at the O'Connell Center next weekend -- are a masterful 13-6 over the last 19 meetings against UF, a run that includes three straight wins in the series and a 5-3 mark at the O'Dome. Are you listening, Rowdy Reptiles? ... One of Donovan’s former assistant coaches, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino, rang up the biggest win of his young career Thursday night in a takedown of No. 11 Ohio State. Pitino worked as Donovan’s assistant for one season (2010-11) before joining his famous father’s staff at Louisville. He parlayed that post into his first head job at Florida International, where he stayed one season and was hired by the Golden Gophers last spring. Against the Buckeyes, Pitino shed his jacket and chucked it while protesting a call during the second half. Donovan was asked if that jacket-less look was familiar. “Mine comes off way before I get upset,” the UF coach said. ... Trivia answer: Young has scored in 96 consecutive games, dating to a March 2, 2011 home win over Vanderbilt his freshman year. His classmates current consecutive scoring game streaks: Wilbekin 58 (Feb. 7, 2012 at Kentucky); Prather - 31 (Feb. 5, 2013 at Arkansas); Yeguete - 22 (March 2, 2013 vs. Alabama).