Georgia embarrasses Florida 76-62 in Athens

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators entered Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs hoping to prove that they could continue to be a dominant force in the Southeastern Conference even with their best defender out for the season with a broken foot. Instead of showcasing that confidence, Florida (22-7, 10-4 SEC) was upset and embarrassed by Georgia (13-15, 4-10 SEC) 76-62 at the Stegman Coliseum in Athens, GA.

UF started slow on both ends of the court, beginning the game by going 0-for-7 from three and trailing 21-11 with 7:48 left in the first half following a 9-3 run by UGA.

The Gators used a 12-5 scoring stretch to get within three of the Bulldogs with 2:49 left in the first half, but Georgia outscored Florida 10-4 over the final few minutes to take a nine-point lead at the break.

The Bulldogs extended their lead to 16 with 10 minutes left but the Gators answered with a 7-0 run to get within nine with 8:10 left in the game. A three-pointer by UF junior guard Kenny Boynton cut UGA’s lead to five points with 1:51 as part of a 9-2 Florida run, but Georgia outclassed their oppoennt down the stretch to earn a 14-point victory.

The Gators shot a paltry 21.7 percent (5-of-23) from downtown and hit just 22-of-60 shots from the field on Saturday. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, shot 52.9 percent from the floor and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc, earning 16 assists on 27 baskets compared to just eight on 22 for their opponents.

Florida outrebounded Georgia 33-28 (13-5 offensively) but turned the ball over 12 times compared to just 10 for their hosts.

Four Bulldogs scored in double figures on Saturday while only three Gators did the same. Freshman guard Bradley Beal led Florida with 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting but was 0-for-4 from downtown. UF junior G Kenny Boynton hit 3-of-7 attempts from three but, like senior point guard Erving Walker (14 points), was just 4-of-11 from the field.

Florida will look to end their season on a better note next week. UF travels to Vanderbilt on Tuesday before hosting No. 1 Kentucky on Sunday in Gainesville, FL.

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Shorthanded Florida looking to take down Georgia

On a three-game winning streak and looking to be victorious against a long-time rival, the No. 11/12 Florida Gators travel to Athens, GA to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Friday to discuss his team heading into the upcoming game.

YEGUETE’S ABSENCE CREATES OPPORTUNITIES FOR LARSON, PRATHER

Florida was excited to get sophomore forward Will Yeguete back on Tuesday after the defensive specialist missed just one game after suffering a concussion. The Gators were less enthused when Yeguete (broken foot) got injured in the second half of Tuesday’s game and was ruled out for the remainder of the season.

“No question he’s our most complete defensive player of what he can do because you can press with him in a great way, he can guard other people’s frontcourt players, you can switch with him and he can guard other people’s perimeter players. As a defender and a rebounder, he’s one of our more complete guys,” Donovan said on Friday.

“I’m disappointed he’s hurt. I’m disappointed he’s out. But there’s an opportunity for Casey Prather to grow here and really step up, for Cody Larson to step up, for our team to take on this challenge. A lot of times losing a key player is a great life lesson or teaching lesson for them to come together and try to overcome however you got to do it. It’s a great challenge.”

As Donovan noted, Prather and Larson are the two bench players who will most likely earn addition minutes in place of Yeguete. However, it will be a complete team effort to replace him on the court, something it appears as if the players realize.

“It’s a tough situation for him obviously. He’s a big part of this team. Mentally just knowing you’re not coming back the rest of the season is tough to deal with,” junior F Erik Murphy said. “The players know everybody needs to step up, do more and fill in the [blanks] that he left.”

Though Prather will see some time at the four, it will most likely be Larson who gets the most additional court time as Murphy and sophomore center Patric Young will also be shifted around and played in different lineups. Both Donovan and Murphy are confident that Larson can help Florida – especially on one end of the court.

“He knows what he’s doing defensively and he can physically battle inside,” Donovan said. “He is not totally confident offensively. He’s not really a scoring threat. Cody defends and impacts the game – not necessarily like Will does – but with the things that he can do.”

Murphy added, “Cody’s gotten a lot better since last year and he’s continuing to improve throughout the season as he gets more experience. He’s a physical guy. He plays hard. He puts his body in the right places.”

HISTORY AND STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Georgia 106-96; the Gators have won 15 of the last 17 meetings between the two teams, and UF is 9-5 at UGA under Donovan.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 19 of 28 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 679 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators enter Saturday’s contest on a three-game winning streak while the Bulldogs are on a three-game losing streak.
» Florida, offensive juggernauts this season (first in the SEC, No. 18 nationally), will face a Bulldogs defense ranked No. 3 in the SEC.
» The Gators are 287-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida has won 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season after defeating Alabama. That mark is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.
» The Gators are undefeated (17-0) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and just 5-6 when that margin is even or negative.
» Struggling from the line in nonconference action, UF is shooting a league-best 75.3 percent from the charity stripe.

WALKER CLIMBING UP ALL-TIME LISTS

Senior point guard Erving Walker is steadily making his way up a number of Florida’s career lists, moving into No. 1 all-time in assists (515) and already holding the top mark for career three-point attempts. Below are some of the achievements he is about to make in UF’s record books.

» Minutes: Walker (4,068) can move into No. 1 all-time in time on the court by playing 33 more minutes, passing Eugene McDowell (4,100).
» Three-pointers made: Walker (273) can move into No. 2 all-time with two treys, passing Brett Nelson (274).
» Scoring: Walker (1,678) can move into No. 3 all-time with 104 points, passing Udonis Haslem (1,781).
» Free throws made: Walker (413) can move into No. 6 all-time with 35 makes from the charity stripe, passing Andrew Moten (447).
» Free throws attempted: Walker (522) can move into No. 7 all-time with four foul shots, passing Dan Cross (525).
» Games Played/Started: Walker has played in 135 games and started 104, placing him No. 7 and No. 10 on the respective all-time lists.

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TWO BITS: Tebow’s agency, Yeguete’s surgery

1 » Dateline Hollywood reported Thursday that Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has signed with Hollywood agency WME (formerly William Morris) for his “endorsements, public appearances, speaking engagements, TV, film, books, the works –even helping with his foundation.” Tebow had previously been represented by XV Enterprises, the company started by brother Robby Tebow and good friend Angel Gonzalez, for such endeavors. Though it was well-known that Tebow was XV’s only client at the time of its creation, considering his brother is a part of the firm and it is somewhat named after his jersey number (XV = 15), the move is undoubtedly an interesting one. XV landed Tebow endorsement deals with Nike, Jockey and FRS Energy (among others) and was behind him during the release of his book Through My Eyes and movie Everything in Between (in partnership with Fiction). Dateline Hollywood‘s report has been been confirmed though neither Tebow nor WME has spoken publicly on the matter.

2 » The Florida Gators announced that sophomore forward Will Yegute has decided have surgery on Friday to repair his broken left foot. Yeguete, who suffered a Jones fracture in his fifth metatarsal against Auburn on Tuesday, will have a screw placed in the foot to promote a stronger and quicker healing process. “The last few days have been tough,” Yeguete said, according to the school. “Basically, I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not to have the surgery … and I’m going to.” Former Florida point guard Taurean Green suffered the same injury while playing overseas in Europe. Unlike Yeguete, Green chose not to have surgery and told OGGOA on Wednesday that the injury healed on his own and he has not had any problems with it since.

Extra BIT » NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has had plenty of fun with Tebow this year, including creating a new character named “Tebowie” – a combination of Tebow and David Bowie, but decided to poke at another former Gators player this week. In a segment on Wednesday’s show called “Sports Freak-Out,” Fallon and announcer Steve Higgins crack wise on the looks of a number of NBA players including none other than Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (1:30).

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FOUR BITS: Muschamp, Dillman, Donovan, Tebow

1 » Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp is set to make 10 appearances at local Gator Clubs (nine in the state of Florida and one in Atlanta, GA) as part of the team’s six-week 2012 Gator Gathering schedule. The events are open to the general public; however, tickets are sold for each speaking engagement with proceeds benefiting the individual Gator Clubs and the university. You can check out the entire schedule here.

2 » The Gators opened up the Griffin-Oakley Strength & Conditioning Complex to the media on Thursday making new director of strength and conditioning Jeff Dillman as well as a few Florida players available for interviews and to talk about how training is going heading into the 2012 season. UF released a video recap of the event, which you can view below, through their GatorVision.tv service.

ESPN explained his philosophy further:

Dillman described Olympic-style lifting as weighted plyometrics — essentially exercises with fast, powerful movements while lifting weights. It’s designed to provide a total-body workout and a cardiovascular workout in a short period of time. It includes numerous variations based on three main lifts: the power clean, the snatch and the split jerk.

Because Olympic weightlifting movements are done quickly with heavier weight, and require significant coordination and muscle control, they can help athletes with such quick movements as sprinting, jumping or firing off the line of scrimmage. They also develop a strong core, better conditioning, and better balance.

3 » Head basketball coach Billy Donovan told the school’s website on Wednesday that sophomore forward Will Yeguete was “pretty crushed” when learning about his broken foot and how he will miss the remainder of the season. Donovan also said that the Gators have an opportunity to prove how good of a team they are and that “everybody has a chance to step up” and fill in for Yeguete. “I think with a great belief and a great commitment and an incredible focus, with guys wanting to step up, a lot of those special things can happen in the midst of people not thinking they can happen,” he said. “Now, I’m not saying they’re going to happen. I’m saying we need to try to make them happen.”

4 » At the 2012 NFL Combine on Thursday, Denver Broncos head coach John Fox said that he was not worried that the comments about starting quarterback Tim Tebow from backup Brady Quinn would be an issue heading into the season. “Knowing their relationship, knowing both Brady and Tim very well myself, you know, sometimes things get lost in translation,” he said, according to NFL.com. “I know their relationship is very close, they have a lot of respect for each other. They’re very good teammates to each other, so, that’s kind of what I know.” Fox made it sound like he wanted Quinn to return to the team in 2012, but the player is not under contract with the club and is a free agent this offseason.

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SIX BITS: Noah, baseball, Demps, Speights, Brewer

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah registered his first career triple-double (13 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) on Wednesday in just three quarters of action (and 30 total minutes) against Milwaukee. Noah’s 10 dimes were a career-high and he became the first Chicago center to achieve a triple-double since Artis Gilmore did so in 1977. After a slow start to the year, Noah is averaging almost a double-double per game this season with 9.4 points and 9.8 boards.

2 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (4-1) shut out the No. 19 Central Florida Knights (3-0) on Wednesday for the first time since 1977, outscoring their visitors 8-0 as sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (1-1) picked up his first victory of the season. Crawford (2 H, 3 BB, 4 K) pitched 4.1 no-hit innings before being pulled after five scoreless frames. Sophomore left-hander Daniel Gibson (2.0 IP, H), freshman LHP Bobby Poyner (1.0 IP, H) and freshman RHP Ryan Harris (1.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 K) finished out the game on the hill. Florida scored in each of the first three innings and five of the eight frames they went to the plate. Senior center fielder Daniel Pigott hit a solo shot in the first and finished 2/3 with two RBIs, two runs and a pair of walks. The Gators rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third, and senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/4, RBI, BB) led off a two-run fifth with a solo homer of his own. Tucker’s dinger tied him with former UF All-American Brad Wilkerson (1996-98) for the school’s career RBI record of 214. Florida added another in the seventh and cruised to victory. UF will not get much rest as a series against William & Mary begins on Friday at 7 p.m. with game two and three set for Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., respectively.

3 » Deciding to run track instead of compete for a spot on a NFL roster may be a tough choice for some, but former running back Jeff Demps knows what he is doing. In a feature on Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame, Demps and head track coach Mike Holloway discuss his future in the sport. “At the bottom of my heart, I just love running,” Demps said. “He can become one of the best,” Holloway added. “Jeff believes that or we wouldn’t be doing this.” Holloway, who will also be an assistant coach on the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2012 London Olympics, believes that Demps can go all the way in the sport. “He has that potential down the road. There’s no doubt about that,” Holloway said of Demps potentially medaling at the Olympics. “It’s just a matter of us getting the proper training model and getting the proper steps taken to keep him healthy.”

4 » Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford was named the 2012 Sportsperson of the Year by the Atlanta Sports Council on Monday for making a positive impact on sports in the local community. “Playing for the Atlanta Hawks is an honor and has afforded me the opportunity to make an impact on organizations and causes in the Atlanta community that I am extremely passionate about,” Horford said in a statement. “I am committed to these efforts and the individuals that they serve, and I thank the Atlanta Sports Council for recognizing my involvement and dedication.” Horford played in the first 11 games of the 2011-12 season before suffering a torn labrum, which will keep him out of action until the end of April at the earliest.

5 » Memphis Grizzlies F/C Marreese Speights has been on quite a tear recently and is fitting in nicely with his new team. Starting in 26 of the 28 games he has played for Memphis this season, Speights is playing a career-high 23.0 minutes and averaging career-highs in points (8.6), rebounds (6.5) and free throw percentage (.816). He has scored double-digit points in five-straight games and had back-to-back double-doubles on Feb. 15 (20 points, 18 boards) and Feb. 17 (12 points, 10 boards). “It’s been one of the best moves of my life,” he said of getting traded to Memphis, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer. “It’s been great. We have a good team and we’re winning. They gave me a chance to come over here and play and show the things that I can do.”

6 » In a similar boat as Speights, it seems all Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer needed was a change of scenery. Since returning to Denver after taking a sabbatical due to the death of his father, Brewer has scored double-digit points in five of seven games (he posted nine points in the other two). He’s been a bright spot for the Nuggets this season and may have finally found a comfortable home after moving from Minnesota to New York and then to Dallas one year ago. He is averaging 9.4 points (a career-high for minutes played) and shooting a career-best 36.0 percent from beyond the arc while grabbing 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

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Donovan’s halftime speech lights fire for Florida

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators started slow but pulled away from the Auburn Tigers in the second half of Tuesday night’s game, eventually routing their visitors 63-47.

Down 30-27 at the break after playing “careless” basketball including committing 12 turnovers and making a number of extremely poor decisions in the first half, the Gators received a stern talking to by head coach Billy Donovan in the locker room.

Senior point guard Erving Walker summed it up in three simple words: “You guys suck.”

Donovan was disappointed in his team not only for the turnovers but also because they played poor three-point defense and did not attack the boards on either end of the court.

“In the first half, there was nobody home mentally. We were slow reacting,” he said. “They beat us to a lot of loose basketballs and we were down by three. I think those guys realized that we got to kind of get going here a little bit.”

The first half ended with a microcosm of how the entire 20 minutes played out.

Rather than either trying to create a play or running the clock out as much as possible, Walker threw up and missed a long three-pointer that was rebounded and driven the entire length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup. Florida headed into the half down three, and Donovan knew he had to do something to help change his team’s fortunes.

“I spoke from my heart just how I felt about the way we played and what we did and what we needed to do,” he explained. “Those guys went out there and did it in the second half. They played very well and were able to get things turned around.”

Check out what Billy Donovan had to say to his team…after the break!
Continue Reading » Donovan’s halftime speech lights fire for Florida

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Will Yeguete out indefinitely with broken foot

Sophomore forward Will Yeguete will miss at least 4-6 weeks and likely the remainder of the season for the Florida Gators after breaking his foot during Tuesday game against Auburn, head coach Billy Donovan confirmed following the contest.

Yeguete, a solid interior defender, efficient rebounder and much-needed spark of energy for the Gators when he is on the court, went down with 11:11 left the second half after landing on his foot awkwardly when returning to the floor after going up for a rebound. He was sent to the locker room for further evaluation did not return.

“I’m worried right now that Yeguete broke his foot; I don’t know that that’s the case,” Donovan said after the game, adding that Yeguete had already been sent off to Shands Hospital for X-rays and that he was awaiting the results.

Donovan later confirmed that Yeguete’s food is indeed broken and a Florida spokesman said after the game that he will miss a minimum of 4-6 weeks but likely the entire season.

Yeguete’s injury is to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and is likely a Jones fracture, which may require a screw to be inserted in order to help stabilize the bone.

It is the third major ailment the second-year big man has faced this year.

He suffered a concussion against Ohio State on Nov. 15 and was forced to miss the following game, a 91-55 win over North Florida. Yeguete was concussed a second time against Tennessee on Feb. 11 and UF never recovered in the contest, dropping a 75-70 decision at home. He once again sat out one game, which the Gators won 61-52 on the road at Alabama three days later.

Yegeute has averaged 6.3 rebounds, 4.5 points and 1.2 steals in 22.2 minutes per game over 25 contests for Florida this season.

It remains to be seen how the Gators will attempt to replace his production though the team will likely try do so by committee approach. Florida can go small by giving more minutes to sophomores point guard Scottie Wilbekin and guard Casey Prather or keep size in the frontcourt by using redshirt freshman F Cody Larson more often.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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No. 11 Gators use big second half to cage Tigers

What started out as a potential upset bid turned into an absolute rout as the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (22-6, 10-3 SEC) more than doubled up the Auburn Tigers (14-13, 4-9 SEC) in the second half to pull away with a 63-47 victory on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida outscored Auburn 36-17 over the final 20 minutes and was able to shoot their way past an 18-turnover performance that allowed their opponent to take 15 more shot attempts in the first half alone.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his team with one of the most efficient shooting performances of his career, hitting 7-of-11 shots from the field and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc for a game-high 20 points.

Florida started out a perfect 6-for-6 from the field (and 2-for-2 from downtown), but Auburn was nearly as efficient from beyond the arc, hitting four of their first five shots to keep UF’s lead at 16-14 early in the first half.

Though the Gators shot well, they turned the ball over 12 times in the first 20 minutes and allowed the Tigers to score 10 points off of those miscues. Auburn took 15 more shots than Florida did in the opening half and had a bench that outscored their opponent’s 16-2 as they held a 30-27 lead heading into the break.

The Gators hit a pair of three-pointers to retake the lead at the beginning of the second half, but the Tigers answered back and kept things interesting for the next seven minutes. Florida then found their stride in a big way, hitting three more treys as part of a 15-2 run to take a 51-39 lead with 6:51 to play.

UF continued to pile on AU, extending their scoring stretch to 25-4 and their lead to a game-high 20 points with less than two minutes to go. The Gators played quality defense down the stretch and took good care of the ball for the duration of the contest.

Florida slowed down in the second half, only turning the ball over six times (compared to twice as often in the first 20 minutes) and getting better looks from beyond the arc.

The Gators shot 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from three for the game and went 7-for-12 from beyond the arc is the second half alone. Florida had 13 assists on 23 baskets and outrebounded Auburn 39-24 over the course of the evening.

After turning the ball over four times in the first half, freshman G Bradley Beal was much more controlled after the break and did not cough it up once in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 13 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) with six rebounds, a block and a steal.

Senior point guard Erving Walker led the Gators with seven boards and five assists but also chipped in 13 points of his own by hitting 3-of-7 attempts from three.

Florida hopes to add to their three-game winning streak when they travel to Georgia on Saturday. The game will air live at 4 p.m. on SEC Network (check your local listings).

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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