Three Florida Gators earn All-SEC honors from AP

Three members of the 2011-12 Florida Gators basketball team earned recognition from the Associated Press on Monday for their efforts this season.

Guards freshman Bradley Beal and junior Kenny Boynton were named to the All-SEC Second Team, and senior point guard Erving Walker received an honorable mention though he was not placed on a team.

Beal and Boynton were named to the All-SEC First Team last week by the conference’s coaches with Walker earning a spot on the second team. Beal was also added to the SEC All-Freshman Team, and sophomore center Patric Young earned recognition for his activities both on the court and in the classroom (3.37 GPA in telecommunications) with the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.

Those four Florida players are not the only ones to receive special recognition after this season as sophomore forward Will Yeguete was placed on the 2012 SEC Community Service Team last Monday.

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OGGOA’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Challenge

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive is inviting you, our readers, to join our third annual NCAA Tournament Challenge. Hosted by CBSSports.com, OGGOA’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Challenge is intended to provide you all with a sense of community, competition and – of course – a few PRIZES as you watch the Florida Gators compete in the event!

OGGOA will give out a grand prize as well as a runner-up prize as part of the contest. The grand prize – a copy of Sports Illustrated signed by former Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer will be sent to the overall winner by Palm Beach Autographs. The second prize – a set of Florida Gators party supplies – will be awarded to the entry with the most total correct picks. Have fun and enjoy March Madness!

To sign up, visit: http://oggoa.mayhem.cbssports.com/e

Password: moss4

*Make sure you have a CBSSports.com account before signing up.

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Gators get No. 7 seed in 2012 NCAA Tournament

No. 21/22 Florida Gators basketball (23-10) has earned a berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament after completing a hard-fought regular season that included posting a 14-2 record at home and a 4-6 record against RPI top-50 teams including three losses to Kentucky, the team ranked No. 1 overall.

As announced during the NCAA Selection Show, Florida – a No. 7 seed – will face the No. 10-seed Virginia Cavaliers (22-9) of the ACC in Omaha, NE on Friday at 2:10 p.m. (ET). The game will air live on TNT with Marv Albert calling the action, Steve Kerr serving as color commentator and Craig Sager reporting from the sideline.

The Gators, placed in the West Region (Phoenix, AZ), could advance to face No. 2 Missouri (30-4) or No. 15 Norfolk State (25-9) in the third round on Sunday. Florida has never played Mizzou in men’s basketball and is set to face them in football next season for the first time since 1966.

The final editions of the 2011-12 season USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 Poll and Associated Press Top 25 Poll were released on Sunday and Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (31-2, 18-1 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot despite losing in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament.

The Gators fell three spots in each poll to No. 22 and No. 25 in the respective rankings after losing for the third time this season to the Wildcats; Florida has now lost six of their last nine games. UF earned second-round victory in the SEC Tournament against Alabama (66-63) on Friday before suffering a tough loss against Kentucky (74-71) on Saturday in semifinal action.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (30), Syracuse, Missouri (1), Michigan State, North Carolina
6-10: Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Murray State, Baylor
11-15: Marquette, Florida State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgetown
16-20: Saint Mary’s, Indiana, Louisville, Wichita State, Creighton
21-25: Florida, New Mexico, San Diego State, Vanderbilt, UNLV

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri
6-10: Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Marquette, Murray State
11-15: Baylor, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgetown, Indiana
16-20: Wichita State, Florida State, Saint Mary’s, Florida, UNLV
21-25: San Diego State, Creighton, Notre Dame, Temple, Gonzaga

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri, North Carolina, Michigan State
6-10: Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Baylor, Florida State
11-15: Marquette, Murray State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgetown
16-20: Indiana, Louisville, Wichita State, Creighton, Vanderbilt
21-25: New Mexico, San Diego, UNLV, Saint Mary’s, Florida

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri,
6-10: Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Marquette, Michigan
11-15: Murray State, Baylor, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Indiana
16-20: Wichita State, Florida State, San Diego State, Creighton, UNLV
21-25: Temple, Florida, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Iowa State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Announcement footage above courtesy of Gatorvision.tv.

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3/10: (4) Florida vs. (1) Kentucky post-game notes

The No. 19/22 Florida Gators dropped a 74-71 heart-breaker to the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament. Before Florida can advance to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, head coach Billy Donovan and a handful of players met with the media to discuss the loss.

FLORIDA PUTS FORTH A PRAISEWORTHY EFFORT

In what was a relatively even game offensively (both teams took 60 shots with Florida making two more than Kentucky), the final score was decided mostly by foul shooting. The Wildcats went 15-for-20 from the line while the Gators hit just two shots on their one trip to the charity stripe. Donovan was incensed at the disparity following the contest.

“I was proud of the way our guys competed today. I thought we had a two-minute stretch there where we gave up a few offensive rebounds. We had a couple turnovers that kind of allowed them to regain some momentum and take the lead,” he said. “But I really thought the difference in the game to me was the fact that we got to the free throw line two times and [in] by far the most physical game that we have played in all year. How we only got there two times is beyond me.

“That was a huge factor for us to be that close as we were with such a huge discrepancy. But we shot the ball well. I thought we moved the ball, made the extra pass. But I thought the offensive rebounding late in the second half and a few of our turnovers hurt us. But I give our guys credit. They battled and fought to get themselves back into the game to give themselves a chance.”

Donovan continued by discussing all of the things Florida was able to move past in the game – UK owning the offensive boards, UF turning the ball over at inopportune times – but remained fixated on the disparity from the free throw line.

“What we couldn’t overcome was 20 free throws to two,” he said. “And then what we couldn’t overcome was the rebounding margin, in particular the offensive rebounding. […] But when you see from our bench in the second half, Patric Young getting pushed in the back constantly, constantly, constantly, and there’s just no whistle. I mean, to me, it’s really hard to overcome 20 free throws to two.

“There’s no way in the game like that. I could see if Kentucky was playing two-three zone and didn’t touch anybody…but we were fouling them. I’m not saying that we didn’t foul them. There [were] times we fouled them. I thought Murphy, when [Terrence] Jones drove, we fouled him. I’m not saying that. But I mean, we got to the free throw line two times? I mean, we just had a hard time overcoming that. But I thought our guys battled as physically as best they could up front.”

Asked if he saw fouls that were not called, Donovan nodded his head in affirmation.

“Yeah. Patric Young’s going up on offensive rebound and he’s being pushed in the back. And we’re doing the same thing to them,” he said. “I’m not saying that we’re not doing it. We’re doing the same thing. It’s just I’ll deal with the office on it. It’s probably the best way to put it. And I’ll have a lot to say, too. And when I say that, it had nothing to do with us losing the game, so I don’t want to take anything away from Kentucky. They deserve the game. They won the game.”

Read the second half of the post-game news and notes…after the break!
Continue Reading » 3/10: (4) Florida vs. (1) Kentucky post-game notes

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No. 1 Kentucky slides past No. 19 Florida 74-71, eliminates Gators from SEC Tournament

Playing in their second nail-biter in as many days, the No. 19/22 Florida Gators (23-10, 11-7 SEC) showed passion and tenacity despite being outlasted by the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (32-1, 18-0 SEC) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky edged past Florida 74-71 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA, defeating their long-time rivals thrice in one season for the first time since 2003-04.

The Gators were led by sterling efforts from junior forward Erik Murphy and freshman guard Bradley Beal on both ends of the court. Murphy scored a career-high and game-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting while going 4-for-4 from long range and grabbing three rebounds. Beal added 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with team-highs of eight boards and five assists. The duo combined to score 62 percent of UF’s points in the game.

The Wildcats had all five starters score in double figures. G Doron Lamb scored a team-high 16 points while three other players – F Anthony Davis, F Terrence Jones and G Marquis Teague – each added 15. Davis posted a double-double by adding 12 rebounds (five offensive) to go along with two blocks.

The contest started with a frantic pace as both teams scored early and often. Kentucky found success in the paint while Florida hit four of their first seven attempts from long range. The Gators used a 9-2 run including a blockbuster dunk by sophomore guard Casey Prather to take an early eight-point advantage, extending that lead to 10 points with 8:47 left in the half after Beal scored five-straight.

The Wildcats responded with a 9-2 run of their own to cut their deficit down to three, but UF found themselves back up seven on UK with under five minutes to play. However, Florida failed to make a field goal the final 4:24 of the half, and Kentucky concluded the first 20 minutes on an 8-0 run to take a 40-39 lead at the break, their first of the game.

The Gators maintained their intensity coming out of the locker rooms, taking a 54-49 lead as Beal and Murphy combined to score Florida’s first 12 points of the second half. The Wildcats matched their opponents shot for shot, and Kentucky used a 16-2 scoring stretch to take a 64-55 lead with seven minutes to play.

UF allowed UK to get back in the game by going scoreless for 6:32. In that span, the Gators coughed up four turnovers, committed six fouls and grabbed just two rebounds. However, Florida found a way to get back in the game as Murphy scored seven-straight points to reduce his team’s deficit to two with 2:42 remaining.

Both teams traded blows the rest of the way with the Wildcats maintaining a two-point advantage with 14.5 seconds left on the clock. Down four after two free throws, Gators junior G Kenny Boynton missed a contested three-pointer, allowing Kentucky to hang on for the hard-fought victory.

UK outrebounded UF 36-22 (15-6 offensive) and used those boards to take an equal number of attempts from the field as their opponent (60). The difference in the game for the Wildcats came from the free throw line. Kentucky made 15-of-20 tries while Florida was just 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.

While Beal and Murphy flourished, the Gators’ veteran backcourt faltered. Boynton and senior point guard Erving Walker combined to go 4-of-19 from the field (2-of-9 from three) with nine assists. Sophomore center Patric Young was Florida’s only other consistent scorer, posting 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with five boards (three offensive).

The Gators, already assured of a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, will now wait until Sunday to find out where they will be seeded in the event. Projections have Florida falling in as a No. 5 seed and playing their first game in Nashville, TN.

Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: baseball, tennis, Young, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball improved to 13-1 this season by defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-5) Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series. FGCU right-hander Ricky Knapp held Florida in check through five innings, giving the Eagles a 2-0 cushion thanks to a two-run homer by catcher Andrew Valencia in the top of the fourth inning. Junior RHP Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) got the start for the Gators and held on just long enough ensure he did not suffer a loss as junior C Mike Zunino knotted the game with a two-run bomb of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Zunino doubled up with another two-run homer in the eighth, knocking in all four of Florida’s runs on the evening and earning a win for junior left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K). Junior closer Austin Maddox grabbed his fourth save of the season, striking out three of four batters in the final frame.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (9-1, 3-0 SEC) won the team’s 100th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Friday night, defeateing the No. 22 Vanderbilt Commodores (10-5, 2-1 SEC) 6-1. Florida, which holds the longest active home winning streak for a NCAA Division I women’s sports program, has not fallen on their home court since 2004. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather each won their matches to earn the doubles point for the Gators. Florida also won five of six singles matches with No. 1 Wil, No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree, No. 39 Oyen and junior Caroline Hitimana pulling out victories while No. 49 sophomore Alex Cercone fell in a match that lasted over two hours. No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (9-4, 2-1 SEC) also beat the Commodores (5-7, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 on the road in Nashville, TN.

3 » Florida sophomore center Patric Young said after Friday’s game against Alabama that he will return for his junior season in orange and blue, according to a conversation he had with Matt Watts, the sports editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. Young, however, told Watts that he was not sure what freshman guard Bradley Beal planned to do about his future. Beal is currently projected by many analysts as a potential top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft even though his shooting numbers have been suspect for the Gators this season.

4 » No. 3 Gators softball (21-2, 2-1 SEC) dropped their second game of the season on Friday, falling 1-0 to the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (15-3, 1-0 SEC) due to a defensive miscue in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1, 6.2 IP, 5 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K) was tagged for her first loss of the season as Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe outdueled her, only allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 15 Florida batters. The Gators will look for revenge against the Lady Vols and hope to win the series with back-to-back victories on Saturday on Sunday.

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3/9: (4) Florida vs. (5) Alabama post-game notes

The No. 19/22 Florida Gators squeaked out a 66-63 victory against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday in the second round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament. Before Florida can advance to take on the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. on ABC, head coach Billy Donovan and a handful of players met with the media to discuss the hard-earned win.

FLORIDA PUTS FORTH A PRAISEWORTHY EFFORT

After being admonished by Donovan for the way they played in Athens, GA four games ago, Florida received praise from their head coach on Friday for executing well for the third-straight game. He was especially pleased with the way the team practiced during the week but did offer one criticism of the Gators’ game.

“This time of year, you got to find ways to advance and move on and we did,” he said. “I thought we had some opportunities both in the first half and the second half to really extend our lead and we weren’t able to do that. We got it up by 12, and I thought our defense hurt us in terms of let ting them get back into the game and tie it.”

Florida had multiple six-point leads and went up a game-high 12 points mid-way through the second half but allowed Alabama to tie it up. Though the Gators shot poorly (38.5 percent from the field) in the contest, Donovan blamed UF’s defense for allowing UA to stop their scoring stretch and tie things up.

“The problem was on the defensive end of the floor. We would get a stop and we wouldn’t come down with the ball, wouldn’t come down with the rebound,” he said. “They came down with it, and it gave them an extra possession in the game. And they didn’t have a lot of offensive rebounds, but I think they had some timely possessions, where they got the ball back. That kind of shut down our run.”

Donovan noted that Florida hitting 10 threes – even though the Gators were not exceptionally proficient from beyond the arc – was easily the difference in the game, calling treys “the greatest equalizer in college basketball.” He continued, “You can sometimes overcome a tough defensive night if you make enough threes and the other team doesn’t, and I think that’s what happened today.”

Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, formerly an assistant under Donovan, took the exact same stance on the outcome of the contest.

“You look at it, probably the difference in the game was the 3-point line,” he said. “Florida was able to make 10 threes. We knew coming into the game that that would be key. But they had some guys that stepped up, made some contested ones, very difficult from a defensive standpoint to be able to contain them. […] Florida did a good job attacking the paint and just finding open guys and making the extra pass, and that’s what their team do. Erv[ing Walker], he got going and started looking for his teammates and opened things up. They just played to their identity.”

BEAL AND MURPHY LEAD THE WAY FOR THE GATORS

Though he injured his ankle against Kentucky on Sunday, freshman guard Bradley Beal was 100 percent healthy for Friday’s game. Donovan said that he sat out practice on Monday and Tuesday but returned to practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday and was perfectly fine for the contest.

“It didn’t hurt at all,” Beal said after the game. I was 100 percent [Friday]. It really didn’t bother me. I should be good to go [against Kentucky]. I’m fine.”

Beal notched team-highs in points (16), rebounds (seven) and assists (five) but struggled mightily with his scoring in the second half. He hit 3-of-4 threes in the first half but finished the game 3-for-11 from the field, scoring nearly half of his points from the free throw line, where he went 7-of-8.

That is probably part of the reason why he credits Florida’s defense for the win.

“We had to bear down and play defense, because like coach always tells us, he says every night we’re not going to make a lot of shots like we usually do. So this has kind of been a trend for us these last couple games of not making shots, so we really had to bear down on defense and guard guys,” he said.

Junior forward Erik Murphy, who was an efficient 5-of-11 from the field for 15 points, said he is proud of how much confidence the Gators played with on Friday.

“We got the win today. I think we always play with confidence, and I don’t think that’s a problem for us,” he said. “If we continue to defend and make shots, I think we can beat anybody. We just got to play and stay together.”

Beal concurred. “I believe our confidence is a big thing for our team,” he added. “We don’t ever lose confidence in ourselves. We always encourage each other to keep shooting the ball. And even though the shots don’t fall, there’s other things in the game that we can do to impact and try to get the win.”

Donovan pointed out one of those very things and noted that Murphy in particular has improved greatly in that area.

“The one thing our guys are starting to figure out is when teams switch and do a lot of different stuff, we got to find a way to take advantage of them,” he said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that today here with [Murphy].”

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Florida escapes Alabama in SEC Tournament

Despite never trailing in the game, the No. 19/22 Florida Gators (23-9, 11-6 SEC) coughed up a number of leads to the Alabama Crimson Tide (21-11, 9-8 SEC) on Friday afternoon but found a way to pull out a 66-63 victory and advance to the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Gators, held to 38.5 percent shooting from the field, were outrebounded 30-25 by the Crimson Tide but managed to force 10 turnovers while only coughing up the ball five times. UF’s 10 makes from three-point range were the difference in the contest even though UA connected on four more baskets over the duration of the game.

Florida outscored Alabama 7-1 to start, but the Gators followed up their hot start by going scoreless for 5:22 and allowing the Crimson Tide to tie things up by scoring six-straight points in that stretch.

UF again jumped ahead of UA by six thanks to an 8-2 run including two threes by freshman guard Bradley Beal, but Florida suffered another scoring drought (this time for 3:08) and let Alabama tie things up again at 15 all with 6:36 left in the opening half.

The Gators went back up six as Beal scored five-straight points including his third trey of the half with 2:57 remaining, but a buzzer-beating three by Crimson Tide G Levi Randolph cut their lead to just two points at the break.

Beal and junior forward Erik Murphy combined to score 19 of Florida’s 26 first-half points while the team as a whole shot just 32 percent (8-of-25) from the field and 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from downtown.

Alabama opened up the second half with a fast break dunk to tie the game at 26. Florida answered quickly, retaking their lead and extending it to a game-high 12 points with an impressive 17-5 scoring stretch.

The Crimson Tide refused to go down without a fight though, responding by taking off on a 16-4 run to tie the game at 49 as the Gators went scoreless for 3:47.

Florida and Alabama battled back-and-forth for the duration of the contest. The Gators jumped ahead seven points after junior G Kenny Boynton nailed a three with less than two minutes to play, but the Crimson Tide scored five-straight and used a trey by G Trevor Lacey to cut UF’s lead to two with 1:07 to go.

A turnover by Walker, who drove the lane and appeared to slip on a wet spot and travel, gave UA the ball back with 41.4 seconds left. Alabama F JaMychal Green missed the ensuing shot but got fouled and hit the first of two free throws before missing the second and giving the ball back to Florida. Boynton was fouled on the other end; he made both free throws to put the Gators ahead three points, a margin UF would retain over the final 9.8 seconds as Lacey missed what would have been a game-tying three at the buzzer.

Beal led the way for Florida with team-highs in points (16), rebounds (seven) and assists (five). He went 3-for-4 from downtown to start the game but did not hit a single bucket in the second half even though he was an efficient 7-for-8 from the free throw line. Murphy was the team’s most efficient player, scoring 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting despite hitting just one trey. He also had three boards and a game-high three blocks.

Boynton added 14 points, four rebounds, two dimes and two steals. Sophomore center Patric Young, coming back down to earth after a breakout game against Kentucky, scored six points and grabbed five boards but fouled out in the waning minutes.

Green was the player of the game even in a losing effort for Alabama, posting a double-double with game-highs in points (22) and rebounds (10). The Crimson Tide as a team hit 53.3 percent of their shots from the floor.

The Gators’ victory celebration will be short-lived as Florida must turn around and try to avoid a three-game season sweep at the hands of No. 1 Kentucky, which they will take on in semifinal action on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ABC.

Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

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