Gators win 2011 SEC title outright as No. 14 Florida takes down No. 20 Vanderbilt 86-76

No. 14 Florida Gators basketball (24-6, 13-3 SEC) put the wheels in motion Tuesday by clinching a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title and went on to win it outright Saturday by defeating the No. 20 Vanderbilt Commodores (21-9, 9-7 SEC) 86-76 at the Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN.

All five of Florida’s starters scored in double figures and their intensity on the offensive glass (out-rebounding Vanderbilt 11-3) provided them ample opportunities at second-chance points. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 17 points, and senior forward Alex Tyus contributed a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UF struggled early, allowing VU center Festus Ezeli to score nine points in five minutes. He and F Jeffrey Taylor, who added 10 points, scored 19 of the team’s first 21 points as the Commodores led by five early.

Vanderbilt soon went up 25-18, but Florida answered back with an explosive 16-2 run including two three-pointers by senior F Chandler Parsons and five points from both Boynton and redshirt senior C Vernon Macklin to take a 34-27 lead.

The Gators ended the first half with a contested missed trey by junior point guard Erving Walker that was rebounded by Tyus and passed back to Walker for a layup to complete a 20-5 run and give them a 38-30 lead at the break.

With Florida up 11, Vanderbilt used an 8-0 run of their own to reduce their deficit to 48-46 with 13:20 left. VU was soon down only one, but UF quickly responded with an 11-1 run capped by another three from Boynton to gain a 65-54 advantage.

Macklin and freshman C Patric Young each saw themselves in foul trouble after Macklin also committed his fourth with 6:45 left. Even without the size, the Gators did not relent. Boynton hit two more triples (including his fifth four-point play of the year) to put Florida up a game-high 14 points, 73-59, with 6:30 remaining.

The Commodores put one last run together to cut the Gators’ lead to 77-72 with 3:05 to go, but eight free throws from Walker iced the game and clinched the title for Florida.

Boynton scored his 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting from downtown. Tyus was an efficient 5-for-9 from the field and grabbed an impressive seven offensive boards. Walker contributed 16 points (10 from the free throw line) and six assists, while Parsons and Macklin added 13 apiece.

Vanderbilt G John Jenkins scored a game-high 22 points off 9-of-15 shooting. Ezeli added 16 with four blocks, and Taylor was 7-for-11 from the field with 15 points.

The Gators’ 13-3 conference record ties the 2007 team for the best in school history. With the victory, Florida won only its third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007) and reached 24 wins for just the fourth time ever.

UF, the No. 1 overall seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament, will face either Georgia, Ole Miss or Tennessee in quarterfinals (second round) action on March 11. The game will air live on your local SEC Network affiliate at 7:30 p.m.

POST-GAME THOUGHTS

Tyus on the win: “It means everything. It was huge. I’m really excited right now. All the guys are really excited. Just all the hard work, how far we’ve come since our freshman and sophomore years. Now we’re getting to the top of the mountain and just want to keep going.”

Parsons on all starters scoring in double figures: “That’s just everybody playing unselfish. We don’t have any guys on our team that try to go out and get theirs. Whoever’s open gets the ball and everyone really contributed tonight. Our bench was terrific in the first half. We played extremely hard tonight. It shows a lot about our team that we won it all for ourselves.”

Parsons on the celebration: “We’re going to celebrate tonight. Definitely gonna celebrate tonight. I’m not going to tell you what or what we’re going to do. There’s definitely going to be some celebrating going on in Gainesville tonight.

Photo Credit: Wade Payne/Associated Press

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No. 14 Florida at No. 20 Vanderbilt Gameday

Location: Memorial Gymnasium – Nashville, TN [Capacity: 14,316]
Time: 6:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 14 FLORIDA GATORS No. 20 VANDERBILT
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Stallings
Record: 23-6 (12-3 SEC) Record: 21-8 (9-6 SEC)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Vanderbilt -4; O/U 137.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Vanderbilt leads the all-time series against Florida 63-57 and won both meetings last season. However, the Gators are 16-5 in their last 21 games against the Commodores including an overtime victory earlier this year. UF is also 19-11 against them under Donovan including 6-8 in Nashville.
» The Gators are 7-2 against the SEC East this season.
» Florida has won 15 of their last 18 games (and seven of their last eight) with 13 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF, which has already won at least a share of the SEC regular season title and a No. 1 seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament, can win sole possession of the former with either a road victory (or Alabama home loss) on Saturday.
» If the Gators win Saturday, it will be the fourth team in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They would win the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007).
» Florida is 20-1 (9-0 SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 71.5 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last seven games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,364 points) and is one of only three active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 750 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, with 197 three-pointers, is sixth all-time at UF. He is one trey away from moving into the top five.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Vanderbilt leads Florida in points per game 76.7-71.0 (27th-116th) nationally, while the Gators hold an advantage over the Commodores in assists 14.0-13.6 (99th-129th). The teams are nearly identical in rebounding (37.7 apiece) and field goal percentage (.459-.458 [UF]). Florida holds opponents to five fewer points per game than Vanderbilt 61.8-66.8, grabs more turnovers 13.1-12.5 and coughs up fewer 12.4-13.7. The Gators rank 11th in RPI (.6352) and seventh in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Commodores being 24th (.6172) and 15th, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Vanderbilt will square off for the second time this season; the Gators defeated the Commodores 65-61 in overtime in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 1. Even though the Gators failed to score a single field goal in the last 6:19 of regulation and the first 2:12 of overtime, Florida was up three with 15 seconds left when Parsons hit a pair of free throws to ice the game.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…who is averaging double-digit points (11.4) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (798), No. 3 in points (1,364) and assists (306) and No. 4 steals (123). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.377). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (72) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.8 percent from the floor this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 6.0 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 37.2 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.6 points per game and makes a team-high 81.3 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 86.2 percent from the line (50-of-58) in SEC play.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.27:1), while Young averages 3.1 points and 3.4 boards.
» Vanderbilt G John Jenkins…who plays a team-high 34.6 minutes and is his team’s leading scorer (19.4 points per game). Jenkins also shoots 89.2 percent from the charity stripe, hits 41.0 percent of his three-pointers and leads the SEC in scoring average.
» Commodores F Jeffrey Taylor…who is his team’s second-leading scorer (14.5) and third-leading rebounder (5.5) while playing the second-most minutes (31.0).
» Vanderbilt G Brad Tinsley…who leads the SEC in assists with 4.5 per game. He also contributes 10.8 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Commodores.

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CHOMPING: Billy Donovan has earned 2011 SEC Coach of the Year honors

The subtext of Tuesday’s de facto 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title showdown between the No. 14 Florida Gators (23-6, 12-3 SEC) and Alabama Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-4 SEC) was the competition for SEC Coach of the Year between Florida head coach Billy Donovan and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant.

Yet while plenty has been said about Donovan having been snubbed for the honor on three previous occasions (2000, 2006, 2007), little has been mentioned about why his team’s accomplishments should earn him the award over Grant this season.
Continue Reading » CHOMPING: Billy Donovan has earned 2011 SEC Coach of the Year honors

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Parsons reps SEC in Conference Voices Blog

For whatever reason, it was completely unknown to us that Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons was one of six college basketball players who had been writing a monthly post for ESPN Insider’s Conference Voices Blog. Though we will not reprint the posts in their entirety for you, here are portions of each so far this season along with a link to the full article on ESPN Insider (subscription only).

11/19/10: Early-season tests key for Florida

We have an experienced team that’s been through that before so we know that it matters what you do off the court, whether you’re eating right, putting the right stuff in your body. I think as an older team we realize you can’t burn the candle at both ends. I love playing a tough nonconference schedule but when I was a freshman we had a very young team. Coach Donovan didn’t necessarily schedule the hardest teams because he wanted to get our feet wet. He wanted us to play at home and get used to college basketball. This year, it’s different because we have an older team. We have Florida State on the road, Kansas State, Xavier. I’m all for it, especially going on the road because it’s like playing in the tournament. You could be playing anywhere in the country. It’s good to play in some hostile locations, not just the hostile places in your conference.

12/18/10: K-State and the SEC slate

UCF is still undefeated. I wouldn’t say it was a bad loss — they’re a good team. Afterwards, with his comments I think Coach Donovan was worried about our offense — not making the best decision when the ball is in our hands, turning the ball over, not getting the best shot. He basically wants us to play unselfish and for the people with the ball to get the best available shot. Ever since that game, I think we learned a lot from that and I think we’ve grown in the last three or four games our defense has been really good. We’re more worried about our defense. We know we have enough offensive firepower to win games.

1/22/11: No easy outs in the SEC this season

I’m sure that Auburn game was brutal to look at, it was brutal to play in, too. We were able to get a win even though we shot 15-for-53, and I think that says a lot about the character of this team. We went on the road and won in their building with our defense. […]But for us within the conference, we understand that every game is going to be a war. We understand that even if Auburn is 0-and-4, going into their place is not going to be an easy game.

3/2/11: Chandler Parsons is healthy and thriving

My teammates are going after me. I’m starting to think they did it on purpose. But no, really, at first it was Vernon [Macklin] at Georgia with the towel and then Alex [Tyus]. You see that all the time, the bench gets hyped and we’re throwing towels around and his hit me where it wasn’t supposed to. And then with the knee, it was just me and Alex both going for the rebound and he just happened to hit me.

It was close to my hip, like on the outside of my thigh, and it caused some serious swelling in my leg. My left leg was twice as big as my right one. I couldn’t put any pressure on it and I was on crutches. My trainer, who’s been training for 30 years, says it’s the worst thigh contusion he’s ever seen. Right where I got hit was bruised, but the swelling went down to my knee. It was so black and blue. I’ve never had to be on crutches in my life before that.

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3/3: Donovan on Parsons, Vanderbilt, SEC

No. 14/14 Florida Gators (23-6, 12-3 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability Thursday.

KEEPING THEIR MINDS RIGHT

Capturing a portion of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title is quite an accomplishment but having it all to yourself is even more special. Donovan did not distinguish between the two scenarios, noting that he was just happy the team has achieved a SEC Championship in general.

“If you win a SEC Championship, you win a SEC Championship. Anytime you’re a part of a SEC Championship, it is meaningful,” he said. “Obviously we have an opportunity and a chance to win it outright on Saturday, but we got to play against a really good team that has been exceptional at home and had a great year.”

With Alabama and Georgia squaring off before Florida takes on No. 20/21 Vanderbilt, Donovan is aware that he has to do something to make sure the Gators are focused on winning their game no matter the earlier outcome.

“I talked to our guys about this. We cannot allow ourselves to emotionally get caught up spectating in that game. That’s the human element and human nature that I’ve always talked about. They’ve got to distance themselves from that,” he said. “We’re going to know something before we go into Vanderbilt, and they’re probably going to hear things. But you can emotionally get sucked into that. We need to be focused on what we got to do in this game. We should not even worry or concern ourselves with stuff that’s going on outside of the guys that are inside that locker room. That’s something that I’ve got to address with those guys and I’ve got to talk to them about. That game should have no bearing on how we go out and play; to me, that’s easier said than done.”

Though Donovan indicated he has yet to discuss the topic with his team, senior forward Chandler Parsons seemed to have an idea what his coach’s instructions would be.

“I’m sure obviously we’re going to know who won going into the game, but I don’t think with as good of a team as we are…we’re still going to want to win the game even if Georgia happens to win, he said. “We’re still going to come out with the same mentality that we want to win the game. The same mentality we come out with for every game. It doesn’t matter what other teams do; it just matters what we do.”

FLORIDA’s FIRST SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR?

Donovan refused to prop himself up Tuesday night after his team’s big win for SEC Coach of the Year, but he had no problem heaping praise on Parsons in the hopes that he captures SEC Player of the Year honors.

“Chandler has had a terrific year. In my opinion, he should really, really strongly be considered for that,” Donovan said. “He is really multi-dimensional. He does a lot for our team. He rebounds, he passes it, he’s shot the ball better, he take sit to the basket. You can put the ball in his hands to make plays. There’s no question as far as versatility is concerned, he’s definitely the most versatile small forward in the league with all the things he can do.”

Asked who he thinks should win the award, Parsons refused to say himself, nervously stammering and trying to find the right words. Eventually he was able to answer the question in a politically correct manner.

“That’s really a tough question. I put myself in a good situation where I can be talked about, but I don’t know if I’m going to win or not. It really doesn’t matter to me. I just worry about my team right now,” he said. “It’s really flattering and stuff that people are talking about me winning it, but seriously I’m more worried about us winning Saturday, us going to the SEC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament.”

Read what else Donovan and Parsons had to say…after the break!
Continue Reading » 3/3: Donovan on Parsons, Vanderbilt, SEC

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Dallas Mavericks snag free agent Corey Brewer

Updated March 2 at 7 p.m.

One day after being bought out and waived by the New York Knicks, who acquired him as a side deal in their blockbuster trade with the Denver Nuggets for forward Carmelo Anthony, former Florida Gators F Corey Brewer is in the process of signing a multi-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

Brewer, who was released on March 1 in order to be eligible to participate in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, was courted by nearly a dozen teams as late as Monday but narrowed his list down to a handful that included Dallas, San Antonio, Boston and Charlotte.

The Mavericks ended up landing Brewer due to the fact that they could offer him more money than his other suitors, ESPN‘s Marc Stein reports. His deal is expected to start in the $2 million per season range and could be worth as much as $7-8 million over the three-year life of the contract.

Averaging 24.3 minutes per game with the Minnesota Timberwovles this season, Brewer posted 8.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game (all below his career numbers). However, it is his athleticism and defensive prowess that had him coveted so heavily once he reached the free agent market.

OGGOA will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Muschamp, spring, Strong

1 » The media hits keep coming for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Just one week after his new head coach, John Fox, decided that veteran Kyle Orton will be the starter when the team’s training camp opens and a disputed report surfaced that Tebow does not have the support of the front office, new team president John Elway said the following on Denver radio this week:

“Tim came in and started the last three games and played well but was also very raw. […] If we sit here right now Kyle would be the starter. Now, Fox likes competition and I think that is what makes everybody better, is competition at every position, and so therefore when he gets here he does not know anybody here so when he comes into camp and brings these guys into camp, every position is going to be competed for and the best player’s going to play there.”

Tebow, competing in the Honda Classic Pro-Am on Wednesday, dismissed that he was concerned about the comments made over the last week by his coach. “He’s great,” Tebow said of Fox. “I had a great relationship with him last year in the whole recruiting process. We had several dinners together when he was at Carolina.” He told the Associated Press that he recently spent time with Fox and is not worried about competition for the starting job. “That’s fine,” Tebow said. “It doesn’t matter until you go out and start competing. That’s my attitude.”

2 » The University of Florida Alumni Association announced 10 Gator Club appearances for new head coach Will Muschamp this spring. They are listed below:

4/20 – Polk County … 4/26 – Broward County … 4/27 – Fort Myers … 5/3 – Orlando
5/12 – Tampa … 5/13 – Jacksonville … 5/17 – Tallahassee … 5/19 – Atlanta, GA
5/24 – Volusia County … 9/2 – TitleTown (Gainesville)

3 » Former head coach Urban Meyer may have closed fall practice last season, a decision that enraged media members exponentially more than fans, but he made sure to leave spring practice open to the public. The Gainesville Sun’s Robbie Andreu believes “there is a good chance that many, if not all, Florida practices will be closed to the public and media.” Andreu goes on to point out that, while fans may be disappointed, closing practices could be a great move for a brand new coaching staff that is looking to start from scratch with open competitions for positions and different schemes for each player to learn. You can read what else Andreu had to say on the topic here.

4 » When Louisville Cardinals head coach Charlie Strong took over the program after deciding to leave his position as defensive coordinator of the Gators, he did not have high hopes for his team in year one. “If you would have asked me a year ago at the end of spring ball, I would have said I don’t know if we’ll win one or two games,” Strong said, according to ESPN. After a successful season which included seven wins and a victory in the 2010 Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl, Strong is much more optimistic about the direction his program is heading.
 

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SEC title a dream come true for UF’s seniors

“I couldn’t dream of a better way of finishing my career here.”

That is how Florida Gators senior forward Chandler Parsons described the perfect storm of good fortune that his team encountered Tuesday night.

“This is a great feeling. I just feel honored right now.”

Emotional words coming from a 6’10” 240 lb. redshirt senior center named Vernon Macklin, who has shown flashes of dominance in only his second season as a starter after transferring from Georgetown.

“It means everything.”

The only way senior F Alex Tyus could verbalize the expression on his face as he walked off the court after the 78-51 beating Florida put on the Alabama Crimson Tide to capture at least a share of the 2011 Southeastern Conference regular season title.

His next thought?

“I don’t want to hear anything about ‘co-‘ or ‘share.’ I want to win it outright. Let’s get this win against Vandy.”

Just another thing he has in common with his classmates.

“The best thing about it is Saturday we have an opportunity to go and win on the road and be the only SEC champs, not just have a share of it,” Parsons said. “We did it tonight, but we want to win out and win against Vanderbilt. I’m glad we did it for Coach Donovan,” Macklin added.

So while the Gators have another obstacle in front of them Saturday, facing No. 20/21 Vanderbilt to earn more than a “share” of the SEC title but instead the whole thing, Tuesday was a day where dreams were reached and emotions were, well, shared. And it all started with head coach Billy Donovan.
Continue Reading » SEC title a dream come true for UF’s seniors

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