Donovan optimistic heading into SEC Tourney

With his team taking a three-game losing skid into the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament this week, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan admitted Monday that he has seen some recent improvement when it comes to effort, intensity and passion but thinks his squad had plenty of room to grow going forward.

“There’s definitely more confidence,” Donovan said of the way Florida has performed since putting forth a lackluster effort on at Georgia, the first of UF’s three losses. “They’re more comfortable in terms of things that we’re trying to do. I still think we can get better at it. I think they’re getting a better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Though the Gators have struggled offensively, Donovan is most concerned with the team’s defensive efforts. If Florida can succeed on that end of the court, offense will not be an issue whether or not shots are going down.

“We have more of an awareness with Will [Yeguete] being out of what needs to be done, but I still think there are a lot of breakdowns in possessions that we just don’t have that margin for error,” he said. “If one guy forgets to block out, if a guy doesn’t rotate correctly and the floor is offset, we have difficulties at times rebounding the ball. […]

“I still think our team can get better, more or less. I don’t know if there’s been one theme. There have been some games where our energy level is not where I’ve wanted it to be. And then there have been some games where – two against Kentucky, Vanderbilt I thought we competed really hard and played well in the game – but I thought in crucial situations there was a couple of defensive rebounds that we needed to come down with that we just did not come down with. That’s that margin of error I’m talking about on the defensive end of the floor. We can’t have that. There’s got to be more discipline in that area of being able to do that.”

One reason UF is having difficulties in this area, Donovan believes, is the lack of frontcourt depth and the inability to properly prepare in practice.

“The hard part is, sometimes when you’re in practice, we can’t simulate Festus Ezeli. We can’t simulate [Anthony] Davis, [Terrence] Jones and [Michael] Gilchrist,” he said. “We’re kind of going against ourselves and sometimes in practice we’re not necessarily getting a realistic look. At the same point, we can still be disciplined enough we’re blocking out and doing our job in that fashion.”

Donovan said the Gators had “some time to try and get better as a team” this week but admitted that “it’s always difficult [to prepare for an opponent] when you do have a bye and you’re not going to really know who you’re playing until a day before you’re actually playing the game.”

Nevertheless, he thinks the team has set itself up for success in at least one area – big-game experience. Donovan was “anxious to see” how Florida progressed in practice this week. Fans are equally as anxious to find out the type of effort and intensity the Gators will put forth on Friday at 3:30 p.m. against either Alabama or South Carolina.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on junior guard Kenny Boynton being late to a meeting and pulled from the starting lineup: “I have no issues on a daily basis with Kenny at all. He is a great kid. He comes to practice every day. He does work hard. He’s very coachable. Those guys know we’re supposed to be on time. A lot of times you have players that are younger that are looking at what’s tolerated and what’s not tolerated. [If] nothing’s done, ‘I guess it’s no big deal if I come 15 minutes late or 20 minutes late.’ It sets a bad precedent there. I don’t think it was anything done maliciously but there’s also that maturity thing I’m talking about. There’s different things where there has to be an awareness inside of our team. Somebody getting to where we need to be 10 minutes earlier, if they’re not there, a player runs and grabs them and makes sure he’s where he needs to be. […] I have to honestly say, this is the first time it’s happened all year long with Kenny. He’s never been late for anything. It was the first time. We’ll move on. He dealt with what he needed to deal with. He works hard here this week, he’ll be right back in the starting lineup.”

» Boynton said the meeting occurred in the middle of the week and was set for 9:15 a.m. he was about 10 minutes late. “I take full responsibility. I just kind of lost track of time. I was up and just lost track of time.” As far as if his relationship with Donovan was strained at all, Boynton added, “We’re good.”

» Boynton on if the team’s pride was hurt by the losses: “We’re playing for pride and respect. We let a few get away from us. As a team you should come out every game ready to play no matter who you’re playing. […] I don’t think we lost our pride. We probably lost a little respect from the fans and stuff, but I think we’re going to get it together. We’ve been on a three-game losing streak in my freshman year before, but I think we’re going to pick it up and get it together.”

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FOUR BITS: Bilas, Lunardi, Young, lacrosse

1 » Speaking with ESPN’s Jay Bilas early in the week, OGGOA was told by the college basketball analyst that he believes the Florida Gators‘ problems begin and end with the players and not head coach Billy Donovan. “I think this is a player issue, I don’t think this is a coaching issue,” he said. “When you’re watching a team and you say, ‘Geez, it doesn’t look like they’re going after it as hard as they’re capable of doing.’ That’s not the coach, that’s the players.” Bilas maintains that Florida losing Will Yeguete is a bigger deal than maybe even fans understood at the time because of “his ability to come in and do dirty work” along with his size, length and the fact that the team does not have to run plays for him while he’s on the court. He is most concerned with the group’s passion, something Donovan has spoken at length about recently.

“I don’t think over the last two-three weeks or so, when I’ve watched them play, they’ve played hard but they haven’t ‘wowed’ you with how hard they played. And they haven’t ‘wowed’ you with how together they’ve been,” he said. “There was a time early in the year where I thought they were really a together group, and they don’t look as connected right now. That probably helps explain it. Maybe Will Yeguete not being there is a part of that. They’ve looked more individual than team lately. They’ve got some really good individual players, but it doesn’t really matter often times how good your individuals are. It’s how good they are collectively. I think Florida is really capable. I’ve watched them a lot this year. I like their team, but they haven’t played nearly as well as they’re capable of playing over the last two-three weeks.”

2 » OGGOA also got a chance to catch up with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who currently has the Gators slotted as a five-seed and No. 17 overall. Lunardi admits that he is “relatively bullish” on Florida compared to some of his colleagues and said that UF’s loss on the road to Georgia did not hurt the team as much as some may think. “I would say [it dropped them] half a seed line,” he said. “It was a road game against a not-terrible team. It’s not like they lost to Georgia Southern on the road. I have them with two losses against teams not under consideration [for the tournament] and that would be at Georgia and at Rutgers, who [are] good but not great BCS teams on the road. Not killer losses in my eyes at all.” Furthermore, Lunardi noted that the Gators could push themselves to a low three or high four seed if they win the 2012 SEC Tournament (which would most likely include defeating No. 1 Kentucky) but must try to avoid losing in the second-round action against either Alabama or South Carolina. “We’ll just have to see where they go out if they don’t’ win the tournament and against who,” he said. “If the team that knocks them out is Kentucky, that’s not going to hurt them.”

3 » After sophomore center Patric Young went through what sounds like his worst practice in a Florida uniform on Wednesday, one in which Donovan came down exceptionally hard on him, he desperately in need of a pick-me-up. Young responded with two quality practices on Friday and Saturday and was then called into the Gators’ coaches offices where there was a phone call waiting to him. According to Florida, former Indianapolis Colts head coach, motivational speaker and mentor to athletes Tony Dungy was on the line to inspire and enlighten Young. “It was unbelievable to think that someone like that would take the time to talk to me,” he told the school’s website. Dungy told Young that he was also stubborn as a youngster but that succeeding in sports requires giving it 100 percent all the time and that he must “suck it up [and] take coaching better and come at it with a different mentality.” Young explains, “My whole life, I guess I didn’t take coaching very well and now, finally, it’s started to affect me. My coach my senior of high school, we butted heads every now and then, too. I wasn’t used to a guy getting on me like that. And Coach D is 10 times worse. He cusses at you and hurts your feelings.”

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (5-2) picked up their first victory against a ranked opponent this season, defeating the No. 15 Georgetown Hoyas (2-1) 12-9 on the road in Washington, D.C. Florida jumped ahead to an early 3-0 lead but fell behind 4-3 before scoring three more goals to take a 6-3 lead with 7:02 left in the first period. The Gators led 7-5 at the break and basically traded goals with the Hoyas the rest of the way though neither team scored over the final 8:15 of the contest. Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand scored five goals on five shots and was supported by two goals each from classmates Kitty Cullen, Ashley Bruns and Caroline Chesterman. Florida will have a quick turnaround as the team returns home to host Temple on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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TWO BITS: Brewer’s ring, Tebow’s service

1 » Not longer with the Dallas Mavericks, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer did not receive his NBA Championship ring with his teammates when the ceremony took place at the AmericanAirlines Center early in the season. With his new team, the Denver Nuggets, in town to face Dallas on Feb. 15, the Mavericks held a special mini-ring ceremony to honor Brewer’s contributions to the team. You can check it out in the video below (hat tip to Rob K.):

2 » If you thought Tebowmania had died down at all with the 2011 season having come to a close, you would most certainly be wrong. According to the Associated Press, nearly 20,000 people attended a speaking engagement with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow at the Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV over the weekend. During the service, Tebow discussed the Tebowing phenomenon and why he does it before, during and after games. “One of the reasons I get on a knee is because that’s a form of humbling yourself,” he explained. “I want to humble myself before the Lord and say thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for letting me play the game I love.” Senior pastor Kevin Odor also told the AP that “more than 1,000 people had logged on to the church’s website to watch a live feed of the Saturday night service, hailing from far-flung countires including Afghanistan and Bangladesh.” Tebow also donated his speaking fee to the Tim Tebow Foundation for the purposes of building a hospital in the Philippines.

Extra BIT » Former Florida basketball player Donnell Harvey, a first-round pick in 2000 who spent five seasons in the NBA from 2000-05, is now playing for the Tropang Texters of the Philippine Basketball Association after spending time off of United States soil in professional leagues in Turkey, Puerto Rico, Bosnia and China. In his debut game with his new club, Harvey posted 21 points and a league season-high 28 rebounds in a losing effort for his team (hat tip to Marco J.).

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FOUR BITS: baseball, McCray, violations, Macklin

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (11-1) continued their early season dominance, thrashing the visiting Florida Atlantic Owls (8-5) on Tuesday evening at McKethan Stadium. Florida topped FAU 16-1 in the contest, taking a 9-0 lead through two innings and cruising the rest of the way. Freshman left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner got the spot start and picked up the first victory of his young career, striking out three batters while allowing one run (unearned) on three hits in four innings. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (3/3, 5 RBI, 2 R) smacked two home runs in the game, hitting a two-run shot in the first and a three-run bomb in the second. Senior center fielder Tyler Thompson (2/4) added a homer of his own and matched Zunino with five RBIs and two runs. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, 2 RBI, 3 R) and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (2/3, RBI, R) were also efficient from the plate, adding to the Gators’ impressive total. Florida will step back on the diamond Wednesday night when they host Florida A&M at 7 p.m.; the game will air live on Sun Sports (check your local listings).

In other baseball news…freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday. Gushue hit .400 with two homers, four RBIs and three runs over the weekend in Coral Gables, FL.

2 » The New Orleans Saints are currently under investigation by the NFL league office for maintaining a bounty for hard hits and knockout plays maintained by former defensive coordinator Greg Williams. Williams, a member of the team’s coaching staff from 2009-11, was with the squad for their Super Bowl XLIV season. Also on the team that year was former Gators defensive end Bobby McCray, who had incredible postseason and wound up hitting a pair of veteran quarterbacks – Minnesota’s Brett Favre and Arizona’s Kurt Warner – exceptionally hard in their respective matchups during the playoffs. The NFL fined McCray $25,000 for some of his hits on Favre, including one which caused an eruption on the Saints’ sideline. According to Sports Illustrated, “an on-field microphone directed toward the sideline caught an unidentified defender saying, ‘Pay me my money!’” following the play.

3 » Florida has self-reported a total of 12 secondary violations to the Southeastern Conference since April 2011, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Tuesday. Spread amongst the football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, volleyball and swimming programs, 10 of the 12 violations included some form of impermissible contact with four instances being incidental pocket dials. Most punishments, whether mandated by the school or convergence, included lengthened non-contact periods with the particular recruits. One notable exception was the women’s basketball team taking part in an “off-campus, team-building exercise” with each player forced to pay $12 for participating and coaches losing two hours of instruction per student.

4 » Power forward Vernon Macklin has not seen much court time this season with the Detroit Pistons as he stuck depth-wise behind four/five other players, but he told the Detroit Free Press this week that he has kept a positive disposition in spite of his not being able to play on a nightly basis. “It’s tough, but it’s not hard to stay focused because I got guys like Ben Wallace and Greg [Monroe] and those guys talking to me a lot and telling me to get my work in,” he told the paper. “It’s not really hard to stay focused. I just got to understand that I’m going through a bump in the road right now. But I’m going to get better and keep on learning, and one day I will be able to play.”

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Four Florida Gators earn SEC year-end honors

Four members of the 2011-12 Florida Gators basketball team earned year-end recognition on Tuesday for their efforts over the past season as voted on by the 12 Southeastern Conference coaches.

Guards freshman Bradley Beal and junior Kenny Boynton were named to the All-SEC First Team with Beal also being selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Senior point guard Erving Walker was placed on the All-SEC Second 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.

An All-SEC Second Team member in both his sophomore and junior campaigns, Walker has now received the honor three seasons in a row. Beal becomes the only men’s basketball player in school history to earn All-SEC First Team and SEC All-Freshman honors in the same season, and Boynton was also named to the unit for the first time in his career after being placed on the second team as a sophomore.

The Gators have been honored with having a SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year in uniform in four of the last seven seasons as Young joins Lee Humphrey (2006, 2007) and Ray Shipman (2010) on that list.

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

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Trio of Gators will have a tough decision to make

As the Florida Gators try to mentally block out the three-game losing streak they are taking into the postseason and prepare for action beginning Thursday in the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament, another upcoming event is also on the minds of a few players: the 2012 NBA Draft in June.

Up to three Gators – freshman guard Bradley Beal, sophomore center Patric Young and junior G Kenny Boynton – may decide it is in their best interest to become professional basketball players at the end of the season. Any or all of those three could join senior point guard Erving Walker, who is graduating in the spring, leaving what could potentially be a large void of talent in the Florida basketball program.

Beal is considered the most likely of the three to leave – and for good reason. Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, he has quickly earned head coach Billy Donovan’s trust and respect and is playing 34.2 minutes per game this season, the most on the team. Beal, who is averaging team-highs of 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals while scoring 14.4 points and dishing out a pair of assists each contest, has been praised by Donovan for his maturity (at such a young age), basketball IQ and an overall understanding of what it takes to win both on and off the court.

Those are just a few reasons why Beal is projected in most mock drafts to be a top-10 pick by the time the event rolls around. Analysts believe his size at 6’3” and 207 lbs., length, athleticism and production will translate well to the NBA.

That does not mean he is without his issues and flaws. A sharpshooter in high school, Beal was expected to be a high-percentage scorer both while driving to the hoop and taking jumpers from three-point range. However, his 42.9 percent shooting from the field is second-lowest out of anyone playing at least 20 minutes per game for Florida, and his 31.8 percent accuracy from downtown is the lowest on the team out of any player who has taken at least two treys this season.

Despite all of his positive attributes, another year in college would likely do Beal a lot of good. Returning to UF could not only help him hone is game but also raise his draft stock further and put him in position to be a top-five pick when 2013 rolls around. According to his coach, an additional season at the collegiate level would help Young even more.

Donovan spoke at length Monday about Young, who had arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday against No. 1 Kentucky by posting 21 points and nine rebounds while providing a great deal of effort and energy on both ends of the floor. That has not always been the case for Young this season, and Donovan has had the reason why pinpointed for a while now.

“When you’re talking about maturity, it rears its head in a lot of different ways. Maturity can also be when the game is not going well for you that you still find ways to impact the game by still staying locked in instead of maybe having your own internal pity party that you’re not playing well,” he said. “I talk to our guys a lot about an internal will. Internal will to me is, when you’re not playing well as a player, do you fight harder because your internal will is that you want the outcome or result that you want? Are you willing to fight for those things not only for yourself but for your team? That can be a lack of maturity, when adversity hits not being able to understand how to deal with it.

“Another part of maturity can be your self-talk in your own head, convincing yourself of something that may not even be true but you deem it to be true in your head. Patric has dealt with some foot and knee [injuries] but it’s not anything that is preventing him from playing. He played that way against [Anthony] Davis and Kentucky [Monday], he’s capable of doing that every single game. I’m not saying getting 21 points and 15 rebounds, but he’s capable of having that impact in the game.

“There’s a level of requirement that you have to have as a player that, when you step into practice, you’ve got to work on a regular basis to get better. He had two really good days on Friday and Saturday going into the game, and he did not have a very good day on Wednesday at all. It’s that up-and-down-ness of, ‘I’m tired, I’m sore, my knee hurts, my foot hurts.’ You can’t one minute say that and then the next minute jump up and tomahawk dunk. That doesn’t make any sense. That’s part of any player growing, and I think Patric is still scratching the surface of understanding who he can be and what he can be on a consistent basis.”

Donovan has never been one to hold a player back from going to the NBA if he truly felt he was ready to leave. He told Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah that he felt all three were prepared to turn pro after they won their first national championship; the decision to stay was a choice the trio made, partially because they wanted to win another title and partially because they knew their coach could get them even more prepared for the next level.

Based on general comments he made about Young on Monday, Donovan does not appear convinced that he is ready to take that next step in his career. Though NBA teams may have him up high on their draft boards based on his physical attributes and potential, Young still has a ways to go to become a well-rounded basketball player in Donovan’s eyes.

“As much as I want to expedite that process – I want it to happen right now – he’s got to go through it. What happens is, when you go through the pain and struggle of competition, you start to find out a lot more about yourself internally,” he said. “Patric is finding those things out because I think there was a struggle there for a while for him, even in practice every day – giving the effort and the commitment that he needs to give.

“It also comes down to, more than that, what does Patric want out of the game of basketball? Every player can want something. There are some players that like what the game brings to them – notoriety, attention, for certain guys playing in the NBA, money. Then there’s certain guys that really want to be great in the game and what drives them is to be the best they can be. This process, while these guys are in college, is all about them figuring out what do I really want from the game? Who do I want to be in the game of basketball? It can’t be about external, peripheral stuff. It has to be: what do I really want?

“Once you find out what you really want form the game, then you’re able to go in with incredible perseverance, great internal will because you have a clear-cut understanding of what it takes. Patric is finding out right now what it takes to be a great player. Now the next step is, is he able to make that commitment every single day to play like he did [Sunday] all the time? Not scoring – his activity. A post presence, good post moves, running the floor, offensive rebounding, being physical, defending. He’s capable of doing those things every single night.”

Unlike Beal and Young, Boynton is not a player on the top of teams’ draft boards right now. Slightly undersized for a shooting guard and lacking experience at the point, he has not had the sustained success that scouts like to see from veteran college players.

Working to Boynton’s advantage, however, is the fact that he is in the midst of a career year for the Gators, posting career-highs in points (16.8) and shooting averages. He is hitting shots from the field at a 45.9 percent clip (7.4 percent better than a season ago) and has improved his accuracy from three by 10.3 percent, now hitting 43.4 of his attempts from long range.

Asked Monday if he has made a decision on whether or not he intended to return for his senior season, Boynton gave a short, simple and potentially concerning reply.

“I don’t know,” he said.

Should Beal be the only player to leave early, Florida whould be able to recover relatively quickly. His talent is irreplaceable, but junior G Mike Rosario can step into his minutes and the Gators also have a trio of young guards committed for 2012.

Young and Boynton departing along with Beal would be a cause of major concern for Florida, the former being UF’s only true dominant post presence and the latter being a veteran scorer who is only beginning to hit his stride at the collegiate level. The Gators have no big men committed for 2012 and would face major depth issues in the frontcourt.

The best-case scenario for Florida, of course, would be all three returning for the 2012-13 season with the potential to build on the foundation laid out this year. With as few as two and as many as eight games remaining until the 2011-12 campaign comes to a close, winning tournament games is not the only thing on the Gators’ mind as much as some may want to believe that’s the case.

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Florida falls six spots in latest top 25 polls

The 17th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (30-1, 16-0 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving 94 of 96 combined votes as the near-unanimous top team in the country.

The Florida Gators fell in the rankings after dropping two more games; UF has now lost three in a row and five of their last eight games. Florida dropped down six spots to No. 19 and No. 22 in the respective polls on the heels of a tough road loss against Vanderbilt (77-67) on Tuesday evening and an even rougher defeat at home by the hands of No. 1 Kentucky (74-59) on Sunday afternoon. The Gators are one of just two Southeastern Conference teams listed in the rankings this week.

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 (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

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

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This 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

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

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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SIX BITS: Walker, softball, Nelson, gym, lax

1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:

2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.

3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.

6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from 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. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.

Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.

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