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Open shots were hard to come by for Michael Frazier II against Albany; he'll keep looking Saturday against Pittsburgh.

Friday March 21, 2014Gators Notebook: Finding Frazier, Inside Battle, Chasing History, More Tidbits

Open shots were hard to come by for Michael Frazier II against Albany; he'll keep looking Saturday against Pittsburgh.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

ORLANDO -- Gators guard Michael Frazier II entered another stratosphere on March 4 when he scored a career-high 37 points on 11-for-18 shooting from 3-point range.

If opponents didn't know much about the sophomore from Tampa before then, they sure do now.

In Florida's 67-55 win Thursday against Albany to open the NCAA Tournament, Frazier scored 3 points.

Albany coach Will Brown had a plan.

"We had all sorts of names for him: Ray Allen, Jesus Shuttlesworth,'' Brown said. "He has the smoothest stroke since Ray Allen. We were determined not to let him get a free look."

They did other than for Frazier's only basket of the game, a 3-pointer in the second half.

When the Gators face Pittsburgh on Saturday here for a berth in the Sweet 16, the Gators would like to get more open looks for Frazier. In the five games since his outburst at South Carolina, Frazier has hit 14 of 26 (53.8 percent) shots from long distance but only took four against Albany.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon understands why the Great Danes were so concerned.

"He's a big part of their offense, obviously, because of his shooting ability,'' Dixon said Friday. "He's their best shooter, best perimeter threat and shoots a high percentage from 3. We know that, and we're well aware of that. You can't stop everything, but you don't want to allow him to get going.

"If he makes shots, makes a couple of them, it can break a game open."

Gators coach Billy Donovan said Albany's plan is a tribute to Frazier's improvement. He was a role player as a freshman but now is the only underclassmen in the starting lineup with Florida's four seniors.

"I think the greatest sign of respect for me as a coach is when somebody says to a player, 'we're going to take that player out of the game,' " Donovan said. "And it was a game where because of the way they guarded Frazier, because of the way they guarded [Scottie] Wilbekin, there were a lot of other things open, especially inside and around the basket that I thought we took advantage of."

If the Panthers opt to follow the script Albany used, Frazier must adjust.

Like the Panthers are aware of him, Frazier is aware of Pitt's defenders. He knows he'll have to work for his shots and find others when 3s aren't open.

"Their defense is different [than Albany's], so they're probably going to throw something a little different at us defensively, so we'll have some open looks in other areas,'' Frazier said.

KNOWS HIM WELL

Sophomore guard James Robinson is a staple in Pittsburgh's rotation. He is also someone who has been in Donovan's rotation during his stints coaching for USA Basketball.

"I had a chance to coach James the last two years,'' Donovan said. "He is a winner. He is a guy that makes big plays, big shots. He comes up with loose basketballs, steals. He's got a great IQ for the game, a really, really solid point guard and a great kid."

You know Donovan loves this stat from Robinson: he has 142 assists this season and only 34 turnovers.

EXTRA FAN SUPPORT

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Donovan's college coach at Providence, led his team onto the floor at the Amway Center shortly after Florida's practice Friday. He gave a shout out to Donovan's team as he walked in... 

MUTUAL RESPECT

Gators senior Patric Young and Pittsburgh's Talib Zanna are both physical players who aren't afraid to do the dirty work inside.

Patric Young

A 23-year-old senior from Nigeria, Zanna averages 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. In a respectful way, Zanna called Young and himself dirty players on Friday.

Young understood where Zanna was coming from.

"I think he meant probably that we're both similar type of players, willing to do whatever it takes, the hustle plays, going in there for offensive rebounds, fighting,'' Young said. "I know it's going to be a battle up front. I'm just excited for the opportunity to go against someone like that."

LASTING IMPRESSION

Albany's Brown is what sports writers call "a good quote."

Brown delivered a good one on Young following Florida's victory Friday night. Young scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

Brown was really impressed Brown by Young's muscular physique.

"You see the size of Patric Young?'' Brown asked rhetorically. "If he couldn't make it in the NBA he's going to have a shot in the NFL. If he doesn't go to the NFL, he'll be in the WWE. If he doesn't go to the WWE, maybe UFC. That guy is enormous."

HISTORIC WIN

Florida's senior class of Young, Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete did something Thursday no other players in UF history can say: they won a game in the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive year.

The four seniors were members of the past three UF teams that advanced to the Elite Eight each season. The victory was the 117th of their careers. With a win Saturday, they will become the winningest senior class in UF history.

In addition, the victory gave Donovan 448 wins at Florida, tying him with former LSU coach Dale Brown was second most as an SEC coach. Adolph Rupp is only one with more.

QUOTE OF NOTE I

"When you say a lifer, that means to me I'm never, ever going to go anywhere. Who knows? They may get sick of me at Florida and want me to move on. But I don't like coming out making bold predictions or statements. I would I'm extremely happy with my life right now at the University of Florida." -- Donovan when asked Friday if he was a lifer at Florida with no interest in the NBA

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"The University of Pittsburgh is never intimidated by anyone. Not in academics. Not in basketball. Not in football. Not in anything." -- Panthers junior guard Cameron Wright when asked if Pitt will be intimidated by facing No. 1-ranked Gators 

BONUS SHOTS

The Gators and Pittsburgh have common opponents in Albany and Florida State. Both defeated Albany by 12 points -- the Panthers won 58-46 on Dec. 31. UF defeated the Seminoles at home and Pittsburgh lost to FSU at home ... Young's double-double Thursday was the 11th of his career ... Donovan enters Saturday's game against Pittsburgh with a 32-11 career record in the NCAA Tournament ... Jenn Mereby, Florida's guest services coordinator, has close connections to both programs. Mereby is a recent Pitt graduate who worked in the school's athletic department prior to joining the University Athletic Association ... Pitt's 29-point win over Colorado Thursday was most lopsided NCAA Tournament win in school history.

 

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