Friday February 28, 2014Another SEC title to their own is nice, but Gators thinking bigger
Updated: 5:20pm, February 28
Updated: 5:20pm, February 28
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Around 9:40 Thursday night, Arkansas finished off a big 71-67 overtime road win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
With the final horn, the Florida Gators had officially clinched the 2014 Southeastern Conference title. Minutes later, UF’s four seniors -- Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather -- got a text message from Coach Billy Donovan.
What happened in Lexington has nothing to do with us.
Those words began trickling down to the rest of the team.
More to the point, they were embraced by the team.
The No. 1-ranked Gators (26-2, 15-0), winners of a school-record 20 in a row, aspire to bigger things than SEC championships this season, starting with being the very best they can be Saturday against LSU (17-10, 8-7) at the O’Connell Center.
“It’s nice. We worked for it. But at the same time we’re trying to chase greatness,” sophomore guard Michael Frazier said Friday. “We’re not settling for this. We still have a game tomorrow, and that’s what we’re focusing on. It’s great to have that honor, but we still have a lot of things to accomplish. We still have a lot of goals.”
Those goal, of course, will not be talked about publicly, but imaginations don’t exactly have to run too wild to figure out what they might be. This is a team that twice lost the SEC Tournament title game the last three years, and three times has fallen one win shy of the Final Four.
For now, though, it’s about -- have you heard this before? -- “living in the moment,” which means facing a talented Tigers squad very capable of coming to the O’Dome and bursting the UF bubble. The Gators also go Tuesday night to South Carolina and finish the regular season at home March 8 against what figures to be a Kentucky team out to prove a point by blowing up Florida's much-anticipated “Senior Day.”
For what it’s worth, no team other than Kentucky has gone unbeaten through the SEC schedule the last 57 years; and no team in college basketball history has gone undefeated in an 18-game conference season.
So there are some carrots still dangling out there for the season’s final week.
“Our guys certainly set out to compete for an SEC championship in early January, but the league’s not over,” Donovan said. “We’ve done a good job up to this point of staying focused and going through the process of getting prepared each game and I don’t think this game is any different for us. You want to continue playing well. ... I still think there’s a lot out there for this team.”
That’s exactly what sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith said.
With the proper spin, courtesy of his coach.
“We’re striving for greatness,” Finney-Smith said, repeating one of Donovan's many catch phrases. “We’re thinking about bigger things.”