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February 28, 2014

Notebook: 'Greatness' the theme for Gators



Michael Frazier II didn't watch the Arkansas-Kentucky game that officially made his team outright Southeastern Conference regular season champions Thursday night. The Razorbacks defeated the No. 17 Wildcats 71-67 in overtime at Rupp Arena to give the Gators the title.

"They texted us after the game and told us that we had won the SEC," Frazier said. But consistent with the ongoing sermon in the midst of a 20-game win streak, that wasn't the end of the message. "Coach D also told us that we need to chase greatness and what happened had nothing to do with us. We still have a game (Saturday) that we need to focus on."

Saturday, Florida will host LSU in a welcome home game after a five-game stretch that has included four road games against four top-100 RPI teams. The Gators went into the stretch saying it would show what they are truly about as a team. They leave the stretch focused on larger feats, most notably the idea of "greatness."

A little more than one week ago, Billy Donovan admitted his team is in uncharted territory. Florida has already won as many regular season games as it did in 2006-2007 and two more than it did in 2005-2006. The longest winning streak and the longest home winning streak in school history will once again be in the balance Saturday.

Donovan has made "chasing greatness" synonymous with this year's team to the point where it is wearing into cliché. Whenever "greatness" becomes cliché, you're doing something right.

"Our guys certainly set out to compete for an SEC championship in early January but at the same point, the season's not over," Donovan said. "There is a lot out there in front of our team."

An SEC title will one day be another mark on this remarkable era of Gators basketball, but to exaggerate the importance of winning a down league for this team right now would be misleading. Florida's four seniors have seen the good and bad that comes with regular season success. Greatness isn't easy to catch, but the Gators have surely put themselves in an advantageous position to this point.

-- GETTING ONE BACK --

Freshman point guard Kasey Hill has missed three games with a strained groin but will return to the lineup Saturday against the Tigers. Hill went through a full practice Thursday without any pain.

In Hill's absence, Scottie Wilbekin has played 38 minutes in two of his last three games, shooting 36.1 percent from the field and averaging 5.3 assists per game during Hill's absence. Florida becomes a more up-tempo team with the return of Hill, whose speed can shake up the Gators' offense as well as complement Wilbekin when the two are on the floor together.

Florida will now have every active member of its team available with three games remaining in the regular season.

"Everybody's probably somewhat banged up. Everybody's probably dealing with sore knees, lower backs, tendinitis, those kind of things that are wear and tear injuries," Donovan said. "But we can adjust practice, and we can do things to kind of get them back physically. The biggest thing you want them to do is to try to be able to get game-in-and game out to that emotional level you want to. And it's a grind mentally to emotionally get there each and every game."

-- THIS AND THAT --

Donovan on the trend of fans rushing the court in college basketball: "I never like it. Players are not allowed to go up in the stands. That's a rule. They'll be ejected or a technical foul. The minute you start letting fans come on the floor, it's a little bit hypocritical in terms of now you're asking players in the heat of the moment to control themselves if someone gets hit or pushed."

Frazier on Dorian Finney-Smith breaking out of an offensive rut: "Huge for him, I'm glad he was able to shoot the ball well because he was going through a shooting slump obviously. Glad he was able to knock down some shots for us. He hit a big one late down the stretch so very happy for him, happy for our team he was able to help us pull off that win."


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