Last game against Napier fresh on Wilbekin's mind

  • Article by: EDGAR THOMPSON , Orlando Sentinel
  • Updated: April 4, 2014 - 9:49 PM

Florida didn’t have its top on-ball defender on the floor for the end of its most recent defeat, 31 games ago.

Scottie Wilbekin wasn’t on the floor at the end of either of the Gators’ losses this season, missing all of the Wisconsin game because he was suspended and the final minutes of the UConn game because he was injured.

Photo: Joshua C. Cruey • Orlando Sentinel,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Scottie Wilbekin lay flat on his back, helpless.

The Florida point guard’s twisted right ankle was on ice and both eyes were fixed on the game clock on the training room wall at Connecticut’s Gambel Pavilion.

There was no TV or scoreboard in the room, so all Wilbekin could do was listen. He heard the roar, and his heart sank.

UConn guard Shabazz Napier had just hit a buzzer-beater to hand the Gators a 65-64 loss.

“I saw the clock go to zero, and then I heard the crowd cheer,” Wilbekin recalled Friday. “I’d say it was the lowest point [all season] for us.”

If not for a late-game ankle injury, Wilbekin, the Gators’ best on-ball defender, might have prevented the Dec. 2 defeat. Four months and 30 consecutive victories later, Wilbekin and the Gators (36-2) will get a chance to find out — this time during the Final Four.

While many factors could determine who wins the Gators-Huskies rematch, the Wilbekin-Napier matchup will take center stage when the teams square.

“It’s one everybody is going to want to see,” Huskies senior forward Tyler Olander said. “They’re going to battle. Shabazz is huge for us, and Wilbekin is the same for them.”

Wilbekin made six of Florida’s final eight baskets against Pittsburgh, took control during the final minutes against UCLA in the Sweet 16 and tied his career high with 23 points during the Elite Eight against Dayton.

Napier has averaged 23.3 points per game during the NCAA tournament, scoring 17 of his 25 points during second half of Sunday’s upset of Michigan State.

Despite carrying his team’s hot hand, neither player views Saturday’s game as a head-to-head matchup between All-America point guards.

“Of course I’m going to get that, him vs. him,” Napier said. “It’s fine with me. I understand it. I’m here to win games. I’m not here to try to compete 1-on-1.

“I know Scottie is going to bring his A-game. [We’ve] got to bring our A-game. It’s going to be a dogfight. I’m going to give everything I got because there’s no coming back.”

Wilbekin vs. Napier is a rare meeting of senior stars in a sport in which younger players dominate the headlines while passing through on their way to the NBA.

Adding to the intrigue of Saturday’s point guard duel is the way the teams’ first meeting ended and the ensuing course of their seasons.

Wilbekin, back from for his third game back from a five-game suspension, held his own against Napier on Dec. 2. But he rolled his right ankle with 3:01 remaining, leaving the game with 15 points, two assists, two steals and three turnovers.

Relegated to a training room, Wilbekin relied on Jack Pfaff, a Florida assistant athletic director, to relay updates. Only later did Wilbekin realize Napier forced an off-balance shot that did not find the rim, yet deflected back to him off the hand of UConn’s DeAndre Daniels. Napier then hit the winner.

“It was just a fortunate play for us, a lucky play for us,” he said.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close