Gators up a couple spots in new top 25 rankings

The 15th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (26-1, 12-0 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 rose again in the rankings after a pair of impressive road wins this past week. Florida went up to No. 11 and No. 12 in the respective polls on the heels of consecutive victories against Alabama (61-52) on Tuesday evening and Arkansas (98-68) on Saturday evening. The Gators are one of two Southeastern Conference teams listed in the rankings this week.

Florida guard Bradley Beal picked up SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the sixth time this season on Monday after averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in back-to-back victories for the Gators.

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)-

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

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

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

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

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Walker, No. 12 Gators outclass Razorbacks 98-68

The Arkansas Razorbacks were undefeated at home heading into Saturday game, a showdown with the No. 12/14 Florida Gators at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR. Florida (21-6, 9-3 SEC) put an end to that 17-game winning streak by demolishing Arkansas (17-10, 5-7 SEC) 98-68 and put a major dent in their NCAA Tournament chances behind a career-best performance from senior point guard Erving Walker,

Walker led the Gators on Saturday with a career-high 31 points on 9-of-12 shooting (5-for-6 from downtown, 8-for-8 from the line) and game-high five assists.

UF utilized exceptional shooting and efficient offensive rhythm by the entire team to silence a raucous crowd that had previously helped the Razorbacks defeat a pair of top-20 opponents this season.

Florida held an early 8-7 advantage before exploding on a 19-4 run (and 25-6 scoring stretch) that included three-pointers on four-straight possessions and vaulted them ahead of Arkansas 33-13 with 8:47 to play in the first half.

Walker started the game 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and led the Gators to a hot 9-of-14 start from downtown. His fourth trey doubled up the Razorbacks, and UF continued their first half onslaught to jump ahead by 26 points at the break.

Florida began the second half by taking a 28-point lead on a three by freshman G Bradley Beal with 17 minutes to play. At one point, the Gators had hit nine-straight treys and 20 consecutive field goals over a 16:05 stretch spanning the half. Florida started 11-for-16 from beyond the arc and 21-of-31 from the floor with 12 assists.

The Gators found themselves ahead 30 points in the second half and took a game-high 32-point lead on Walker’s final trey of the game with 1:36 remaining.

Florida as a team shot 58.3 percent (28-of-48) from the field, 56.5 percent (13-of-23) from beyond the arc and 85.3 percent (29-of-34) from the charity stripe. The Gators had 14 assists on 28 baskets and outrebounded the Razorbacks 39-21.

Joining Walker with an impressive performance was junior G Kenny Boynton, who scored 25 points, hitting 10-of-11 free throws and grabbing five rebounds while dishing three dimes. Beal posted 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine boards and three assists, and junior forward Erik Murphy chipped in 13 points while going 3-of-5 from downtown with four boards.

Returning from a concussion that forced him to miss Florida’s game on Tuesday, sophomore F Will Yeguete recorded a game-high 12 rebounds.

Since starting the season 0-4 on the road, the Gators have gone 4-1 away from home over their last five games. Florida will return to Gainesville, FL to host Auburn on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

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Florida hoping to pull off a big win at Arkansas

Looking to continue their winning ways after a decisive victory on Tuesday at Alabama, the No. 12/14 Florida Gators travel to Fayetteville, AR to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. Florida head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Friday to discuss his team heading into the upcoming game.


Both still recovering from injuries, sophomore forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) returned to practice on Friday before the team left for Arkansas. However, despite Yeguete passing all five necessary concussion tests and Rosario practicing for the first time in over a week, Donovan was unsure if either would be available on Saturday.

“As it relates to me playing or not playing him, that will always be predicated on what the medical team says and how they feel,” he said of Yeguete. “When you’re out of practice and out of games for over a week, there probably is a level of rust, there probably is a level of timing that needs to get back,” he added when speaking about Rosario.

The Gators announced just under two hours before game time that Yeguete has been cleared to play; Rosario, on the other hand, did not travel with the team and will miss his sixth game (third-straight) this season.


Now back with Florida as an assistant, former Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey will return to Fayetteville for the first time since the team fired him one year ago. Though he is still close with many of the players he recruited on the team, Donovan suspects that he will certainly feel something when he steps into the arena on Saturday.

“I’m sure internally there’s probably a lot of emotions there for him,” he said. “Any time there is a change like that, it’s always difficult. […] I’m sure for him there will be some emotions and some feelings going back there.”


» Florida leads the all-time series against Arkansas 14-10; the Gators hold a 14-5 advantage over the Razorbacks since Donovan took over UF’s program and is on a four-game winning streak against Saturday’s opponent.
» The Gators are 4-0 against traditional SEC West opponents this season.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 17 of 26 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 677 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators are 285-38 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.
» Arkansas is 17-0 at home this season and 0-9 in away and neutral site games.


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 against Alabama (505) 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 (4,002) can move into No. 1 all-time in time on the court by playing 99 more minutes, passing Eugene McDowell (4,100).
» Three-pointers made: Walker (265) can move into No. 3 all-time with three treys, passing Anthony Roberson (267).
» Scoring: Walker (1,634) can move into No. 4 all-time with 45 points, passing Stacey Poole (1,678).
» Free throws made: Walker (403) can move into No. 7 all-time with 9 makes from the charity stripe, passing Dan Cross (411).
» Free throws attempted: Walker (512) can move into No. 9 all-time with three foul shots, passing David Lee (514).
» Walker is near the top 10 all-time in games started (two away) and steals (six away).


» Donovan if recruiting “bench” players is difficult: “Assembling a team in college basketball in a lot of respects is challenging and a lot different than it was when I first got here. You always have the opportunity with good players where they have an opportunity to make a decision at the end of the year. Teams’ dynamics and personalities can alter and get changed pretty quickly with departures.”

» Asked what injuries he had suffered as a basketball player, Donovan disclosed that he had broken his ankles, dislocated a knee cap and even broken some ribs when he fell onto an opponent’s knee. He also made a joke when discussing Yeguete’s concussions and how in years prior they may have gone undiagnosed. “Sometimes with the way I think, I think I’ve had a few concussions in my day,” he said.

» Sophomore center Patric Young on freshman G Bradley Beal’s dunk and technical foul against Alabama: “It’s kind of my fault on the technical. I kind of made him do it. I like when he dunks on guys. Of course we need that kind of energy. It gets me fired up, and it got him fired up as well. He doesn’t need to stare the guy down like he did, that was kind of a little much. We need each one of our guys to bring some energy like that.”

» Young on the picture of him floating around from the Alabama game: “I’m kind of annoyed because people keep Tweeting me as if I haven’t seen it yet.”

» Junior F Erik Murphy on Walker’s recent struggles: “I’m always confident in Erv no matter what. He’s been great in practice lately. His attitude and stuff is fine. He’s mentally there. I think he’ll break out of this slump pretty soon.”

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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Yeguete may return to action Saturday for Gators

Suffering his second concussion of the 2011-12 season at home against Tennessee last Saturday, Florida Gators sophomore forward Will Yeguete looked to miss a significant period of time with head coach Billy Donovan even mentioning that he could be out of action for multiple weeks due to the severity of his head injury.

Yeguete, who sat out Florida’s game on Tuesday (a 61-52 win on the road at Alabama) and watched the contest from his dorm room in Gainesville, FL, believes he could very well be back as soon as Saturday’s game at the Arkansas Razorbacks if he continues progressing in a positive direction.

“It was kind of a helpless feeling not to be there [Tuesday] but relaxing and resting was what was best for me,” he said on Thursday. “I’m doing much better now, and I’m hoping I can play. We will see.”

Donovan said Monday that Yeguete had only passed two of the concussion tests he needed to satisfy in order to resume practicing with the team. According to Florida, he passed and met his pre-established baselines for “a third on Monday and the other two Wednesday,” clearing him to resume a workout schedule with the team.

The Gators note that it will be determined on Friday whether or not Yeguete will travel with the team to face Arkansas on Saturday. If he does board the plane, barring an unforeseen setback, it is likely that he will see action over the weekend.

Donovan did not take Yeguete’s second concussion lightly. He was extremely concerned when he saw him unconscious on the court after Yeguete hit his head against the basket station and was pessimistic about his return when his second-year defensive star failed three of the five concussion tests initially, calling him “way off” from playing.

“There’s protocol that the trainer and the medical staff have to go through as it relates to conclusions,” Donovan said Monday. “The concussion issues right now because of football have been addressed at certainly a very heightened level. There is this protocol we have to go through regardless of how Will is feeling.”

Now it appears as if Florida may be able to count on one of their most important players returning against a team looking to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

Yeguete is not the only reserve who has missed the last two games. Gators redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) missed his fourth and fifth contests of the season and is unlikely to face the Razorbacks even though he “did participate in an individual instruction workout after practice” on Thursday, according to UF.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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Lin drawing comparisons to the wrong Gator

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Columnist

A great deal of national attention has been paid to NBA phenom New York Knicks‘ point guard Jeremy Lin as of late; unfortunately much of it has consisted of the second-year player being compared to former Florida Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who had a breakout season in his second year in the NFL.

And though Lin and Tebow do share a few parallels – mostly in the social realm – the less obvious and more interesting comparison is actually with another former Florida player – point guard Jason Williams. What Lin has done and continues to do night-in and night-out is without question on an exponentially greater level but there are historical, racial and other parallels to what happened when Williams burst on the scene.

* Feb. 6, 2012: In a season shortened by a lockout, Lin bursts onto the national scene at the age of 23 years and 167 days, posting 25 points in 36 minutes for the struggling New York Knicks, a team in need of a spark and plenty of victories.
* Feb. 5, 1999: Exactly 13 years earlier (minus a day) – after a bitter lockout and the second retirement of Michael Jordan sapped the NBA of fans and support – Williams, at the age of 23 years and 79 days, scores 21 points in 36 minutes for the Sacramento Kings, one of the worst teams in the league the year before.

* Feb. 14, 2012: Lin’s game-winning shot against the Toronto Raptors is endlessly played on SportsCenter, furthering his breakout campaign.
* Feb. 17, 1999: Almost exactly 13 years earlier, Williams’s crossover of Gary Payton (video) in a win over the Seattle Supersonics is played on a loop on SportsCenter.

* The slightly offensive nickname “Yellow Mamba” pops up for Lin.
* The slightly racial nickname “White Chocolate” pops up for Williams (though it was started by a team staffer and embraced by Williams).
* Lin is prematurely compared to Steve Nash.
* Williams is prematurely compared to “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
* Lin’s No. 17 jersey (including counterfeit versions) cannot be printed fast enough to keep them in stock in the United States or China.
* Williams’s No. 55 jersey becomes one of the top five sellers nationally in the NBA.

Perhaps the most interesting parallel between Lin and Williams how their physical characteristics have played a role in their acceptance, popularity and backlash.

Any time there is something that is out of the ordinary or different, the curiosity factor becomes a compelling reason for people to pay attention. Whether a player is really tall (Shawn Bradley), really ugly (Shawn Kemp), really tall and ugly (Manute Bol) or has a certain characteristic that is stereotyped to be one thing and not another, he becomes particularly noteworthy to the masses.

Continue Reading » Lin drawing comparisons to the wrong Gator

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, lacrosse, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow rarely takes much time off from football and is already continuing to work on his game this offseason. According to, which spoke with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone on Wednesday, Tebow has been in Southern California since last weekend working on his quarterbacking. “He just came out here to throw and work on a few things and see if we can just become a little more efficient in what he’s doing,” Mazzone said. “Throwing motion, footwork, everything I work on with all my quarterbacks.” Ensuring that while he helps Tebow he is simultaneously not going against Denver’s teachings, Mazzone (who has also worked with the former Heisman Trophy winner in each of the last two offseasons) expects to continue training with him for at least four more days if not longer. The goal is to work on Tebow’s passing efficiency as he completed less than 50 percent of his throws a year ago. “It’s kind of like a golfer who hit that bad drive,” he said of Tebow’s motion. “Every other guy in the foursome can tell you what you did wrong and all three opinions are different. We’re just going out and kind of going back to the basics and working on some fundamentals to try and become a little more efficient.”

2 » No. 1/3 Florida Gators softball (6-0) routed the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-4) in their home opener on Wednesday, run-ruling the visitors 10-2 in six innings. Freshman pitcher Lauren Haeger, starting for the first time in Gainesville, FL, struck out seven batters her a complete game four-hitter and did not allow a single earned run in her outing. Finding a power stroke early this season, junior designated hitter Kelsey Horton (2-3) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the second for Florida’s first runs of the game and finished the contest with three RBIs. Junior first baseman Ensley Gammel (1-2, R, BB) added a two-RBI double in the fourth, junior catcher Brittany Schutte (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB) continued her hot start from the plate, and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-1, 2 BB) crossed the plate three times. UF will conclude their four-game home stand with a Friday-Sunday series against Michigan State.

3 » Also taking on Jacksonville in their home opener on Wednesday, No. 4 Gators lacrosse (1-1) toppled the Dolphins (0-1) with a 14-5 rout thanks to a pair of five-goal performances from freshman midfielder Nora Barry and junior attacker Gabi Wiegand. Barry, who also tied a school record with six draw controls, added three ground balls and four forced turnovers in the match. Junior M Brittany Dashiell had a goal and three assists and was the only other Florida player with more than two shots on the evening (three), while junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher played strong in the box, tallying six saves while allowing just five goals. UF heads on the road Sunday to face UMBC in Baltimore, MD before returning to Gainesville for three-straight home games.

4 » Wednesday was a good night for two former Gators basketball players. Posting season-highs in minutes, points, rebounds and shooting (on more than five attempts), Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights played 38 minutes and earned a double-double of 20 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with 18 boards and two blocks. He led Memphis to a 105-100 win over New Jersey and has now performed very efficiently in three of his last four games. Over 1,500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons and the Houston Rockets topped Oklahoma City 96-95 partially due to the former Florida player’s efforts. Parsons scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and filled his stat line with seven rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.

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FOUR BITS: Grant, Manuel, Henry, OL transfer

1 » The No. 12/14 Florida Gators pulled off a 61-52 win Tuesday night against the Alabama Crimson Tide mostly due to an explosive start to the second half in which Florida scored 16-straight points. Though the Gators were without two primary reserves in the game, the Crimson Tide had two starters indefinitely suspended, a move that head coach Anthony Grant felt he had to make. As Grant and Florida head coach Billy Donovan communicated both before and after the game, suspending players is a hard decision for a coach to make but usually a smart run because the long-term health if the team is much more important than shot-term gains. The Associated Press’ Jim Litke gave Grant kudos for his decision in this column on Wednesday.

For the price of a ticket Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, you could see something rare in college sports anymore: a coach putting his foot down. […] Grant is doing exactly what the NCAA high-handedly promotes as its core mission – holding himself and his players accountable – but the selection committee isn’t about to cut him any slack for doing the right thing. Every loss still counts as a loss, never mind that it occurred because the coach volunteered to tie one hand behind his back. Grant gets that, too. He won’t change a thing because of it.

2 » Former Florida safety Marquand Manuel, an eight-year NFL who spent last year as an intern with the Gators, has been hired as the Seattle Seahawks’ new assistant special teams coach. A two-year starter for Seattle, Manuel also played in the Super Bowl with the Seahawks and is obviously hoping to begin his climb up the coaching ladder with this move.

3 » Former Florida forward Aneika Henry was signed to a training camp contract on Monday by the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA. Currently playing in Poland and ranking fifth in the EuroLeague in rebounding and eighth in double-doubles (averaging 13.6 points and 9.1 boards per game), Henry spent two years with the Gators and tallied 110 blocks while shooting 53.7 percent from the field. Should she be added to the squad for the regular season, Henry will be just the second former Florida player currently playing in the league, joining DeLisha Milton-Jones of the Los Angeles Sparks.

4 » As they did a year ago, the Gators are hoping that an experienced offensive lineman will decide to transfer to Florida and boost the team’s unit. In fact, UF is currently pursuing a pair of players looking to continue their careers at a different school. The Gators are one of a number of top teams going after three-star JUCO guard Fehoko Fanaika (San Mateo, CA), who visited the school recently and has also received offers from Georgia and LSU. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Florida is also interested in Maryland transfer three-star tackle Max Garcia (Norcorss, GA), who is leaving the program but restricted from transferring to any ACC school, Connecticut, Temple, Vanderbilt or West Virginia. Unlike Fanaika, Garcia would be forced to redshirt the 2012 season before joining any team in 2013. A Georgia native, it is believed that he would strongly consider playing close to home if he gets an offer from UGA.

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