Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
AT THE BUZZER
CONNECTICUT 63, FLORIDA 53
WHAT HAPPENED: The Gators got off to a blazing hot start only to hit an offensive wall like they had not seen all season. And to compound matters, the defense that had been the calling card of the nation’s No. 1-ranked team all year lapsed into mediocrity while 18th-ranked UConn beat UF by being UF better than UF before a record Final Four crowd at AT&T Stadium. Huskies forward DeAndre Daniels scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while the backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright (25 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists) completely took Florida counterparts Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier (7 points combined) out of their game. The Huskies ripped the Gators, one of the best defenses in the country, for 55.8-percent shooting from the floor, including 63.6 in the second half. Conversely, without any scoring from its guards, Florida made just 38 percent from the floor -- Patric Young had 19 points, Casey Prather -- and went just 1-for-10 from the 3-point line. It outcome really wasn't close ... and nothing like when the two teams met on Dec. 2 at UConn and Napier scored a buzzer-beating basket for a 65-64 win.
WHAT IT MEANS: The end to the very special four-year run of Young, Wilbekin, Prather and Will Yeguete, whose 120 wins as a senior class set a school record. The 2013-14 season will go down as the greatest season in Florida basketball history that did not end with a national championship. The Gators (36-3) won 30 in a row between losses to UConn -- the one 125 days ago, now this one here in Arlington -- and along the way became the first program in the history of the Southeastern Conference to go unbeaten in an 18-game league season, then topped that feat off with three more wins and the championship of the SEC Tournament. The 36 wins broke the school record of the 35-6 team in 2006-07 en route to a second straight NCAA title.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Wilbekin, the SEC Player of the Year and MVP of the South Region bracket, battled cramps for the better part of the game and was no where close to his normal attacking-on-offense, stifling-on-defense self. He finished with four points on 2-for-9 shooting. He had no answers for Napier or Boatright, who obviously preyed on his ineffectiveness.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: Coach Billy Donovan takes great pride in his team’s ball movement on offense, but there’s not much to be proud of after the Gators finished with a measly three assists against the Huskies. Of course, you have to score baskets to get assists and the Gators only made 19 field goals (a total of just three from Wilbekin and Frazier). For the season, UF averaged 13.3 assists, with their poorest outing before Saturday seven at Wisconsin and against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament.
SUBPLOT: The Kentucky Wildcats, who the Gators swept in their three meetings this season, have a chance to cut down the nets at the end of the season. Wouldn’t that be ironic?