Gators F Erik Murphy could be back next week

Despite what first appeared to be a serious knee injury, Florida Gators junior forward Erik Murphy could be back in action as soon as next week, head coach Billy Donovan told CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman on Wednesday.

“The meniscus tear was from when he hurt it his sophomore year in high school,” Donovan said. “It looks like this was just a bone bruise.”

Donovan said the hope is that Murphy is back on the court in “a week to 10 days,” putting him in line to return when Florida hosts Arizona on Dec. 7.

This is great news for the Gators, a team thin in the frontcourt and in desperate need of Murphy’s size despite consecutive blowout victories in his absence.

In the interim, sophomore F Will Yeguete has filled in and played admirably well, picking up his first career double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds during his second start of the season on Monday.

Yeguete would return to the bench as the primary frontcourt reserve but would likely see increased minutes due to the impact he has had in Murphy’s stead.

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Donovan earns 400th win as Florida routs Stetson

Despite some coaching news that may have hit Florida Gators fans the wrong way earlier in the day, Gator Nation had an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of head basketball coach Billy Donovan Monday evening.

Donovan picked up the 400th victory of his head coaching career as No. 9/10 Florida (5-1) routed the Stetson Hatters (3-3) 96-70 in the second annual Florida Citrus Sports Shootout at Amway Center in Orlando, FL.

Donovan became the youngest active coach with at least 400 Division I victories with the win but gave all of the credit to the talented players he has coached over the years.

Freshman guard Brad Beal led the way for a Gators with the best performance of his young career, notching his second double-double including career-highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 50 percent from the field, beyond the arc and at the line, blocked three shots, grabbed two steals and accounted for two assists for Florida.

As has been tradition this season, the Gators started hot out of the gate and used an impressive 20-4 run including four threes to take an early 38-16 lead.

The Hatters answered quickly by posting 13-straight points as UF went on a 4:36 scoring drought, but Florida responded by hitting six free throws and a three-pointer to end the half on a 9-0 run and take a 47-31 lead on Stetson into the break.

Though the Gators maintained a comfortable lead in the second half, the Hatters were relentless on both ends of the floor.

Florida hit nine threes to start the game but went 10:53 through the half without knocking another in from downtown. Senior point guard Erving Walker finally connected on a trey with 11:52 remaining, marking a school record six-straight games in which the Gators have hit at least 10 triples.

Despite the back-and-forth play, Florida pulled away in the end and took a game-high 26-point lead on a three by Walker with under two minutes to go.

Walker finished with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting (3-for-7 from three) with five assists. Junior G Kenny Boynton, who struggled early in the game, added 13 points and was just 3-for-8 from downtown.

Sophomore center Patric Young was tagged four quick fouls and scored just nine points, but sophomore forward Will Yegeute picked up the slack with his first career double-double of 10 points and 11 boards. He started his second-straight game in place of junior F Erik Murphy, who remains out of action with a tear in his meniscus.

The Gators also got quality minutes from sophomore G/F Casey Prather, who scored five points and picked up two steals but was the first player in over a year to foul out of a game for Florida.

UF shot just 45.3 percent from the floor and 40 percent from downtown but hit 70 percent of their free throws. The Gators outrebounded the Hatters 40-33 (14-5 on the offensive glass), stole the ball 12 times, forced 17 turnovers and only gave the ball up nine times. Stetson was held to just 1-of-18 shooting (5.6 percent) from three and hit 40.7 percent of their shots from the field.

Florida will face their second top-five ranked opponent this season when they travel to face No. 3/4 Syracuse on Friday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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Florida stuck in place after consecutive victories

The third editions of the regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats have been propelled to the No. 1 team in the country after North Carolina lost over the weekend. The Florida Gators did not budge in either poll – despite two teams ahead of them (UNC, Connecticut) falling to unranked opponents – and are one of five Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective rankings.

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 (22), Ohio State (8), Syracuse (1), Duke, North Carolina
6-10: Louisville, Wisconsin, Baylor, Florida, Connecticut
11-15: Xavier, Alabama, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan
16-20: Marquette, Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, UNLV
21-25: Memphis, Creighton, California, Mississippi State, Saint Louis

Last Week 1-5: North Carolina (30), Kentucky (1), Ohio State, Connecticut, Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Memphis, Florida, Baylor
11-15: Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama, Kansas, Michigan
16-20: Pittsburgh, Marquette, California, Gonzaga, Florida State
21-25: Missouri, Vanderbilt, Arizona, Texas A&M, Creighton

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (46), Ohio State (17), Duke (2), Syracuse, North Carolina
6-10: Louisville, Baylor, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Florida
11-15: Xavier, Alabama, Missouri, Michigan, Kansas
16-20: Marquette, Pittsburgh, UNLV, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt
21-25: Mississippi State, Memphis, Saint Louis, California, Texas A&M

Last Week 1-5: North Carolina (62), Kentucky, Ohio State (1), UConn (2), Syracuse
6-10: Duke, Louisville, Memphis, Baylor, Florida
11-15: Wisconsin, Xavier, Alabama, Kansas, Michigan
16-20: Marquette, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, California
21-25: Missouri, Florida State, Arizona, Mississippi State, Texas A&M

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, volleyball, Zook, WBK

1 » Though it has been airing all season on FOX Sports Florida, a new commercial featuring Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan may have eluded some of you unable to view the game. In the spot, Donovan is doing a mock press conference praising the different offerings from Florida Gulf Seafood. It’s well-worth a view.

2 » No. 17 Florida volleyball (24-5) was selected to be a participant in the 2011 NCAA Tournament when the seedings were announced Sunday. UF will take on Missouri in the tournament’s first round on Dec. 2 in Cedar Falls, IA, marking the 21st consecutive year that the Gators have earned their way into the championship event. Florida will enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak including five sweeps.

3 » Former Gators head coach Ron Zook, who has led the Illinois Illini for the last seven years, was fired by his employer on Sunday after his team lost six-straight games to close the 2011 season. Illinois’ epic collapse came after the Illini began the year 6-0 and Zook looked poised to return his team to heights it had last reached during the 2007-08 season. Illinois finished under .500 in five of Zook’s seven seasons at the helm; he left the Illini with a 34-51 record but will receive a $2.6 million buyout for his services.

4 » Gators women’s basketball (5-1) captured its fifth-straight victory on Saturday after defeating the La Salle Explorers and Charlotte 49ers in consecutive days at the Courtyard LaGuardia Turkey Classic in Brooklyn, NY. Florida topped La Salle 85-74 on Friday behind a career-high 28 points from redshirt senior guard Jordan Jones, who hit 9-of-18 shots, 6-of-12 attempts from downtown and all four of her free throws. Junior forward Jennifer George added a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 80 percent from the field. UF kept their momentum going Saturday with a 82-73 victory over Charlotte including a 48-point second half. Senior G Lanita Bartley scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting with seven boards, while George came close to her third-straight double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Florida will take on Belmont at home on Tuesday before beginning a three-game road trip.

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Injury updates for Kitchens, Murphy and Prather

A number of Florida Gators have suffered injuries over the last few days but detailed updates on three student-athletes in particular have been released this weekend.

Gators sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens, playing coverage on the opening kickoff of the second half during the tilt with Florida State on Saturday, was hit had and laid motionless on the field for nearly 10 minutes Saturday evening. He was eventually placed on a stretcher and carted off to the locker room.

Florida announced Sunday morning that Kitchens was taken to Shands Hospital for further evaluation. Doctors determined that he suffered a concussion during the game but luckily all tests done on his neck came back negative.

Kitchens was released late Saturday night and is said to be doing fine.

Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan also updated the respective statuses of junior forward Erik Murphy and sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather on Saturday.

Donovan said Murphy, who bumped knees with a teammate in practice Thursday prior to the Jacksonville game, has a tear in his meniscus and will be out indefinitely.

The extent of Murphy’s tear and a determination as to whether or not he will need surgery will give the team a better idea of how long he will be out of action, but he is expected to return at some point this season.

Prather pulled his groin during practice Thursday but was able to participate in shoot around and play the first half of Friday’s game. However, he felt some discomfort while on the court and sat out the second half.

Donovan said that Prather has been cleared to return to practiced on a limited basis but his status for Monday’s game against Stetson in Orlando, FL is to be determined.

Florida may choose to rest Prather during Monday’s contest in order to have him fully healthy before UF travels to face No. 5 Syracuse on Friday.

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11/25: Florida vs. Jacksonville post-game notes

The No. 9/10 Florida Gators defeated the Jacksonville Dolphins 107-62 Friday evening in Gainesville, FL, avenging an upset loss from one year ago. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan provided his thoughts on the contest his team just played.

BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON

Florida had already won two games by 30+ points this year but there is no doubt that their win over Jacksonville on Friday was the Gators’ most complete victory of the young season. In addition to UF outscoring their opponent by 45 points, Florida saw five players score in double digits, only committed seven turnovers and never relented after taking a big lead early in the game.

“This game was the best game we played in terms of how I envision our team playing offensively and defensively,” Donovan said. “There was added incentive. Our guys were probably disappointed about last year losing to Jacksonville on our home court. They were very focused and realized this was going to be a battle, that they were going to come in here very confident and had a lot of players from last year still on the roster. They beat us soundly in a lot of aspects, and I thought our guys came in really focused and wanting to play well.”

Senior point guard Erving Walker, junior guard Kenny Boynton and sophomore center Patric Young all agreed with Donovan’s assessment.

“No disrespect to Jacksonville, but on our home court we’re not supposed to lose to a team like that,” Walker said. “Today was our best game overall as a team from start to finish. I think we did a great job.”

Boynton and Young believed the Dolphins quit when the going got tough.

“We definitely feel like they gave up tonight,” Boynton said. “That’s how it goes. Once you feel like a team gives up, you want to keep pushing to try and kill them.”

Young added, “I really noticed it mentally with their team. They started arguing with each other a little bit and losing their team chemistry. After that they started turning the ball over. It affected them being a team. They couldn’t run their plays and were taking bad shots, and we took advantage of it.”

WELCOME BACK, ERVING

Walker himself admitted on Wednesday that he was trying to break himself of some bad habits. He played within himself Friday, finishing with six assists, just one turnover and 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting including going 2-for-4 from downtown and 7-for-8 from the charity stripe.

“Erving Walker did a great job recognizing that we were in the double bonus. He kept getting himself to the free throw line,” Donovan said. “He didn’t take a lot of shots tonight – and obviously he shot the ball better tonight than he had the previous four games – but he got himself to the free throw line. He had a level of recognition and was aware what was going on.”

If Walker can continue playing like he did on Friday, ensuring his teammates get open looks while hanging onto the ball and taking advantage of opportunities to get to the line, he could wind up having a very special season for Florida.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Boynton on the team focusing on rebounding: “We know the offense is going to come, so basically the plan is to rebound. We knew that they were going to come in here and try to fight hard because they had a lot of confidence last year.”

» Young on his extra energy in the second half: “Coach was talking about in the halftime how we need to come out with a lot of energy. […] It was a good opportunity for me to come out with a spark. I didn’t play too much in the first half, and I just felt like I could spark our team and give us what we needed.”

» Young said he will continue wearing the Oakley goggles for the short term because his eye is still bothering him a bit. However, it is not likely that he will have to wear them for the remainder of the season.

» Walker on Donovan being one game away from 400 wins: “I’m just a part of it. He’s been getting these wings for so long. I’ll be happy for him. He’s a great coach and hopefully we’ll get it for him.”

» Donovan of the fast tempo of the game: “We moved the ball, shared the ball, but we were really active in our press. We were able to cause a lot of havoc. Even though we didn’t turn them over a lot, it created a tempo and a pace where offensively we really were able to get out on the break.”

» Donovan on the play of sophomore G/F Casey Prather: “Casey coming off the bench – how he played in the game in the first half is exactly how he had been practicing all the way through. Getting him to transfer the practice to the game has been something we’ve been trying to help him with.”

» Donovan on nearing 400 wins: “I’ve had a lot of good players. It makes me feel very old, you know? Anytime you get to those milestones, they’re somewhat special, but more than anything else they reflect back on the guys that I’ve had a chance to coach. These guys are in their 30s now. I see Jason Williams here last week. The guy’s in his mid-30s and he’s retired. I just feel older now. It’s a different feeling. To be able to be here for so long and for that to happen, I’m just blessed to have a lot of really good players.”

» Donovan on freshman G Brad Beal spending some time at the four: “He’s just got an incredible mind in terms of picking things up. He just let the game come to him tonight. He had five turnovers; I thought a lot of his turnovers were off his defensive rebounds when he was trying to start the break. He gets 15 points and you don’t even know it. He grabs eight rebounds and you don’t even know it. I feel comfortable playing him anywhere.”

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Trio of Gators – Murphy, Prather, Adams – injured

Three Florida Gators student-athletes – two basketball players and one cheerleader – have suffered or aggravated injuries over the last two days.

Junior forward Erik Murphy was forced to miss Friday’s 107-62 blowout victory over Jacksonville after injuring his right knee during practice Thursday. He went to the hospital for an evaluation, but head coach Billy Donovan said the seriousness of the injury remains unknown. Trainers have ruled out an injury to Murphy’s anterior cruciate ligament and expect him to return this season.

“He kind of banged knees with somebody in practice. It was kind of a fluke play,” Donovan said. “It wasn’t anything that prevented him from [finishing] practicing. It happened early in practice, and he didn’t even remember it. He finished up practice last night. With it being Thanksgiving, I had the guys at the house yesterday. He was really complaining that his knee was really bothering him. It continued to swell. With it being Thanksgiving, it makes it difficult to get MRIs and X-rays at 8:00 at night.

“There is a concern right now because he’s had a very difficult time walking. He can’t put any pressure on it.”

Playing one of the best games of his career Friday, sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather saw extensive time in the first half but did not return to the court coming out of the locker rooms after reinjuring a sore groin muscle that had previously been been bothering him. He finished with six points, three rebounds and two steals.

“He slipped in practice yesterday and he kind of tweaked his groin,” Donovan explained. “It was bothering him a little bit in shoot around, but he was able to go tonight and then he tweaked it again.”

The Gators will further evaluate Prather over the weekend and determine whether or not he will be able to participate against Stetson on Monday.

While Florida was upending Jacksonville on the court, a Gators cheerleader was hurt on the side. Senior Laura Adams, a second-year member of the squad and a physical therapy major, tore her Achilles tendon while tumbling and was helped off by teammates.

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No. 9/10 Gators cruise past Dolphins 107-62

Revenge is a dish best served from downtown.

The No. 9/10 Florida Gators (4-1) utilized 11 clutch three-pointers to upend the visiting Jacksonville Dolphins (2-3) Friday evening, avenging an overtime upset one year ago with a blowout 107-62 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his squad with a game-high 22 points on 50 percent shooting (4-for-7 from downtown), and senior point guard Erving Walker chimed in with 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting while hitting 7-of-8 free throws and adding a game-high six assists.

Jacksonville opened up hot with a pair of threes to take an early 6-2 lead, but Florida quickly responded with an impressive 26-4 run spanning 6:21 to jump ahead 18 points with 10:25 left in the first half. Boynton made consecutive treys to end the run and also contributed a layup and two free throws during the stretch.

Undeterred by the Gators’ offensive breakout, the Dolphins countered with an 8-0 run to reduce their deficit to 10 points. However, UF kept the pressure on and used an 11-0 run including two baskets by sophomore center Patric Young to go up to go up 22 points.

Florida increased that advantage to 24 points but ended the first half with a 20-point lead after JU’s Russell Powell hit an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer.

The teams traded deuces to open the second half, but the Gators scored 11-straight points and held a 31-point lead with 17 minutes to play. Young scored five-straight points during the run, which was capped off with a trey from sophomore PG Scottie Wilbekin.

Florida maintained its big lead for the remainder of the contest and wound up winning by 45 points, their largest margin of the evening.

All 10 Gators scored and five reached double figures. Joining Boynton and Walker were Young (14), freshman G Brad Beal (15) and redshirt junior G Mike Rosario (12).

Young, Beal and sophomore forward Will Yeguete each registered nine rebounds with Yeguete, who started in place of injured junior F Erik Murphy (right knee), also scored a career-high eight points.

Florida notched double-digit threes for the fifth straight game, and Boynton improved to 19-for-35 (54.2 percent) from downtown this season.

The Gators outrebounded the Dolphins 42-30, dished 11 more dimes (19-8) and hit 63 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe (22-for-35). UF held JU to 38 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers on the evening.

Florida only committed seven turnovers Friday with Beal coughing it up five times. Young added three blocks on the evening and three Gators registered two steals.

UF will travel to Orlando, FL on Monday to take on Stetson in the second annual Florida Citrus Sports Shootout as head coach Billy Donovan goes for his 400th career victory. The game will tip at 7 p.m. and air live on Sun Sports.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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