Florida faces tough test against UConn, Napier

Posted Thursday, Apr. 03, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

After a brilliant regular season that included an 18-0 record in the Southeastern Conference, Florida opened the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

The Gators backed that with a dominant surge into the Final Four, extending their school-record winning streak to 30 games. They have won their first four games in the NCAA Tournament by double-digit margins while holding opponents under 70 points per game, joining Duke (1999) and Michigan State (2000).

But if the Gators (36-2) hope to extend their mighty run and have a chance to cut down the nets for a third time in school history, they will have to get by Connecticut (30-8) and arguably the tournament’s best player, Shabazz Napier, in Saturday’s semifinal at AT&T Stadium.

Napier willed a Huskies team that finished third in the American Athletic Conference into the Final Four by leading them in scoring (18.1 points per game), rebounding (5.9 per game), assists (4.9) and steals (1.7) during a four-game run through the East Region. He certainly has Florida’s full attention.

“He is as good as any point guard in the country,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “He can beat you on drives. He can beat you with shots. He can beat you from behind the line. He can beat you passing. And the way Connecticut runs their offense, it makes it even that much more difficult dealing with him.”

Behind Napier’s 26 points, UConn handed the Gators their last loss, 65-64 on Dec. 2.

Knowing the enemy

If the Gators advance to Monday’s championship, they will play a familiar foe.

Florida faced fellow SEC opponent Kentucky three times and also visited Wisconsin the second game of the season. The Badgers won 59-53.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said the familiarity is an advantage.

“I do think it’s a good thing as it relates to preparation,” Donovan said. “I use this as an example. When we were playing UCLA, we had not seen a 6-foot-9 point guard like Kyle Anderson. You’re trying to explain to your guys and show it to them, but they have never really gone against it. Whereas I think for us playing against UConn, our guys know Shabazz, [Ryan] Boatright and [DeAndre] Daniels. We can take things from previous games, things we need to do better.”

Donovan said his team is better because of the experiences at UConn and Wisconsin.

“Those two early road games I thought were really helpful to our team moving forward and in terms of where we needed to improve and get better,” he said.

Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Tuesday, September 23Full Scoreboard
Kansas City «7Final | Box
Cleveland1
Baltimore «5Final | Box
NY Yankees4
NY Mets2Final | Box
Washington «4
Seattle2Final | Box
Toronto «10
Chicago WSox3Final | Box
Detroit «4
Pittsburgh «3Final | Box
Atlanta2
Tampa Bay «6Final | Box
Boston2
Milwaukee1Final | Box
Cincinnati «3
Philadelphia0Final | Box
Miami «2
St. Louis3Final(10) | Box
Chicago Cubs «4
Houston1Final | Box
Texas «2
Arizona3Final | Box
Minnesota «6
LA Angels «2Final | Box
Oakland0
San Francisco2Final | Box
Los Angeles «4
Colorado3Bottom 9th | Box
San Diego2@theBallpark | TV: ROOT-RM, FSN-SD
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 23Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Week 4Full Scoreboard
Thursday
NY Giants 8:25 PM ET
Washington TV: CBS, NFL Network
Sunday
Carolina 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Green Bay 1:00 PM ET
Chicago TV: FOX
Buffalo 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: CBS
Detroit 1:00 PM ET
NY Jets TV: FOX
Miami 1:00 PM ET
Oakland TV: CBS
Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FOX
Jacksonville 4:05 PM ET
San Diego TV: CBS
Atlanta 4:25 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
Philadelphia 4:25 PM ET
San Francisco TV: FOX
New Orleans 8:30 PM ET
Dallas TV: NBC
Monday
New England 8:30 PM ET
Kansas City TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Tuesday, September 23Full Scoreboard
Pittsburgh0Final | Box
Columbus «2
Carolina0Final | Box
Buffalo «2
Philadelphia0Final | Box
Toronto «4
Boston2Final | Box
Montreal «3
Nashville2Final | Box
Tampa Bay «4
Detroit1Final(OT) | Box
Chicago «2
San Jose2Final | Box
Vancouver «4
Arizona «4Final | Box
Anaheim0
Vancouver2Final | Box
San Jose «5
Full Scoreboard