Gators lose in Elite Eight for third year in a row

Another year, another Elite Eight let down for the Florida Gators. The Michigan Wolverines dominated the Gators by a score of 79-59 here in Arlington to advance to next weekend’s Final Four. Although the result was the same, this game was played very differently then the previous two season-ending losses for Florida.

This one appeared to be over before Florida even had a chance to score their first points of the game. Michigan came out hot and took advantage to go up 13-0 only three minutes into the game. Conversely, the Gators came out flat for the second game in a row, missing some easy shots inside early on and allowing the Wolverines to get some easy baskets inside. “It was tough opening the game like that and those guys striking like they did,” Senior Mike Rosario said. “This was not new to us. We knew they were very efficient on the offensive end and I thought they did a great job overall. They did a great job on defense and in transition; they made shots when they needed to.” At one point, Michigan boasted a 24 point first half lead and headed into the locker room at halftime up 47-30.

Florida had no answer for Mitch McGary, Trey Burke, or Nick Stauskas all day long. McGary simply dominated the post for the Wolverines in every fashion imaginable. Patric Young found himself in early foul trouble and was never able to establish himself at all. Erik Murphy was reportedly puking all night and went an ugly 0-11 in the game.

Trey Burke (15 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) proved why he is the Big Ten player of the year and gave a masterful performance as the Wolverines court general. The Gators were completely focused on only Burke and allowed other players to get open as a result. Donovan put it simply after the game, “It’s all a result of Burke.” The game showed that Scottie Wilbekin still has a while to go if he hopes to become an elite guard like Burke. If I had a vote, I’d say the Michigan sophomore is a hands down favorite for the Naismith Trophy.

Additionally, Nick Stauskas (22 points) just couldn’t miss from three-point range; hitting all six of his three point attempts. Michigan was on fire all game long, shooting an astounding 46.2 percent from the field and an even better 52.6 percent from three-point range.

The lone bright spots for the Gators would be forwards Casey Prather (7 points) and Will Yeguete (13 points, seven rebounds) who both gave strong efforts for the Gators in the loss. Not much can be said about this one though, as Michigan simply looked like the better team from start to finish.

For the Gators, it’s another bad end to an otherwise strong season. It shouldn’t be lost that the Gators still won the SEC regular season championship and the accomplishment of three straight Elite Eights is never an easy task to accomplish. The Gators simply couldn’t put together a complete game effort once again against a strong Elite Eight opponent. Billy Donovan felt bad for his seniors who will unfortunately never get a chance to go to a Final Four after three straight Elite Eight appearances. “Michigan deserved this game,” Billy Donovan said. “They played better than us. They performed better. They did things that were necessary to beat us.”

The Gators will lose seniors Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario after this season but return a host of talented players. The only possible early NBA draft entry would be Patric Young, but I doubt he will go after the way he closed this season poorly. When Young was asked about leaving after the game, “whatever I decide to do, here or NBA, I’m gonna work my butt off and make sure we have another spectacular season.”

Damontre Harris from South Carolina and Dorian Finney-Smith from Virginia Tech are two talented transfers who will both bolster the Florida frontcourt next year after impressing in practice this season. Florida will also gain the talents of two McDonald’s All Americans in talented point guard Kasey Hill and monster power forward Chris Walker.

The talent will inevitably be there for the Gators to compete deep into the 2014 season but for now, Gator fans end this season with a taste of disgust in their mouths similar to football. On that note, football is a mere 152 days from their kickoff against Toledo in the Swamp. So break out the pigskin instead of breaking anything around your house.

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Seth Puglio
Seth Puglio joined GatorCountry while he was finishing his sports management degree at the University of Florida. Originally from Vero Beach, Florida, Seth has been a huge sports fan his whole life and always knew he would want to get into the sports industry anyway he could. He has spent time working for several athletic administrative departments for the Gators and joined Gator Country as an intern in October of 2012. He is now viewing the sports industry from a new angle as Gator Country’s editor. In his free time Seth enjoys fishing, grilling out, watching too much sports and afternoon naps on the hammock. He is a fan of the Gators, Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. Follow Seth on twitter @spuglio