1 » Golden State Warriors forward/center Marreese Speights put together a career game Monday night as he added a highlight to his otherwise up-and-down NBA career. Speights came off the bench but played starter’s minutes for Golden State in its 123-80 drubbing of Philadelphia 76ers, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting with eight boards and three blocks against the team that selected him with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.
He played so well, in fact, that the Warriors home crowd actually chanted “M-V-P” for Speights though he has been mostly a role player for Golden State this season.
2 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-0, 3-0 SEC) held on to its top ranking on Monday coming out of a 197.175-195.45 road victory on Friday over the Kentucky Wildcats (4-4, 1-3 SEC). Leading the way for the Gators in the meet was sophomore Bridget Sloan, who registered her second and Florida’s fourth perfect score of the season with a 10.0 on the balance beam. The defending national title holder in the discipline, Sloan’s 10.0 made her just the second gymnast in program history to register a perfect mark on the beam and the first Gators gymnast to score 10.0s on two different events in a career. For her terrific performance, Sloan honored by the Southeastern Conference for the fourth-straight week with the SEC Gymnast of the Week award.
3 » In his latest ESPN Insider ($) piece, John Gasaway explains how Florida – despite shooting poorly from the charity – have been able to use the free throw line to their advantage this season.
In major-conference play, no team has achieved a larger season-to-season increase in its own free throw rate than Florida, and part of that’s attributable to what from my chair has been the rather startling emergence of Casey Prather as a foul-drawing featured scorer. The Gators would see an even larger boost in their offense if the team were shooting better than 66 percent at the line against SEC opponents, but with Prather, Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Dorian Finney-Smith and Kasey Hill all drawing at least four fouls per 40 minutes, opposing defenses are being put under tremendous pressure.
Meanwhile, on defense, Florida still fouls much less often than is customary in the SEC (which, by the way, is the most foul-prone of the big seven conferences). As a result, the Gators have gone to the line 58 more times than their conference opponents, a built-in advantage of nearly six free throw attempts per game.
4 » According to Rivals.com affiliate Irish Illustrated ($), former Gators cornerback Cody Riggs is considering transferring to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for his fifth and final season. Riggs, who Florida announced will be leaving the program after graduating in May, was recruited by Notre Dame out of high school and previously visited the university. The Fighting Irish have a scholarship open and a need at cornerback; Riggs would likely get the opportunity to start should he choose Notre Dame as his destination.
5 » Former Florida F Alex Tyus signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli Super League this season and helped his team win its fifth-straight Israeli Cup on Thursday by posting 10 points in the finals. He averaged just 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 13:53 per game this season but shot 68.1 percent from the field throughout the campaign.
6 » A pair of former Gators linebackers appear headed in different directions with their respective franchises. Jelani Jenkins, entering his second season with the Miami Dolphins, has received praise for his late-season play when he took snaps away from one of the team’s big free agent signings in Phillip Wheeler. Jenkins’s emergence could ultimately lead to Wheeler’s dismissal as Miami feels confident he can stay on the field most downs playing coverage linebacker. On the other hand, the New England Patriots and Brandon Spikes appear ready to part ways. Spikes, who was not extended by New England in either of the last two offseasons and enters 2014 as a free agent, will likely command $4-5 million per season – a sum the Patriots reportedly do not plan to pay. New England not standing by Spikes seems a bit ridiculous considering his tight relationship with owner Bob Kraft and the fact that he played every game this year despite dealing with a seriously injured knee from the onset of the 2013 campaign.