2/6: No. 7 Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky

Set to play their third game in six days and square off against their third top three-ranked opponent of the season on the road in the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators and head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Monday to discuss a number of topics relevant to the upcoming game.


After Tuesday’s game is over, Florida will have faced all three teams currently ranked in the top three of both the USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls in road games. The Gators are hoping to come away with their first victory in such an environment and will attempt to do that by looking at the Wildcats not as the No. 1 team in the land but rather just another SEC opponent.

“We never really look at it as where a team is ranked or not ranked getting prepared for them. You always look at the team because rankings and things like that are going to change throughout the course of the year,” Donovan said. “Whether they’re ranked No. 1 or No. 5, clearly they’re one of the best teams in the country. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just more getting ready for how we got to defend, what we have to do on offense and what we got to do to prepare for them.”

His mentality has obviously been passed on to Florida’s players. “We don’t really view it as playing a No. 1 team. It’s just Kentucky,” freshman guard Bradley Beal said. “It’s a league game, so we’re just coming in with the mentality that we’re going to play our game and focus in on what we need to do.” Junior G Kenny Boynton added, “It’s just a ranking at the end of the day. We’re just going to go in there to compete and win.”

Continue Reading » 2/6: No. 7 Florida set to face No. 1 Kentucky

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SIX BITS: Quinn, Tebow, Crowder, Demps, Green’s new team, Brewer’s dad, Wambach’s idea

1 » According to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Dan Quinn interviewed for but turned down the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quinn, who has been at Florida for just one season, was a NFL assistant with four different teams from 2001-10.

2 » The 2011-12 season may now be in the books but that does not mean Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s name is out of the news. Tebow, who sat down for a 30-minute interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm last week, will be featured on ESPN2 in “SportsCenter Special: Face to Face with Tim Tebow” on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 10:30 p.m. Tebow’s recent ESPN rounds included an interview with Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo, which you can view below.

Four more BITS on Crowder, Demps, the Oh Fours and Wambach after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Quinn, Tebow, Crowder, Demps, Green’s new team, Brewer’s dad, Wambach’s idea

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Florida Gators return to top 10 in new rankings

The 13th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (23-1, 9-0 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving the vast majority of votes as the top team in the country.

The Florida Gators reentered the top 10 for the first time since Dec. 26, 2011, falling in at No. 7 and No. 8 in the respective polls on the heels of consecutive victories at home against South Carolina (74-66) on Thursday evening and then-No. 25 Vanderbilt (73-65) on Saturday afternoon. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in both rankings.

Gators guard Bradley Beal picked up SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the second-straight week and fifth time this season on Monday after averaging 16.5 points, nine rebounds and two assists in consecutive wins for Florida over South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He notched a double-double on Thursday and followed it up with an impressive second half performance on Saturday.

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, Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Florida/Murray State, Duke, Kansas
11-15: Georgetown, Michigan State, St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Creighton
16-20: UNLV, Florida State, Mississippi State, Marquette, Virginia
21-25: Harvard, Wisconsin, Indiana/Louisville, Michigan

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Ohio State, Missouri, Duke
6-10: Baylor/North Carolina, Kansas, Murray State, Michigan State
11-15: Florida, Creighton, UNLV, Georgetown, Marquette
16-20: St. Mary’s, San Diego State, Virginia, Mississippi State, Indiana/Wisconsin
22-25: Michigan, Harvard, Florida State, Louisville

This Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Missouri, North Carolina
6-10: Baylor, Kansas, Florida, Murray State, Duke
11-15: Michigan State, Georgetown, San Diego State, UNLV, Florida State
16-20: St. Mary’s, Creighton, Marquette, Virginia, Mississippi State
21-25: Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Louisville, Harvard

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

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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2/4: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game notes

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators earned their 19th consecutive home victory Saturday by defeating the No. 25 Vanderbilt Commodores 73-65 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The second of three games in six days, Florida’s victory left head coach Billy Donovan with plenty to talk about heading into the next contest on Tuesday at 7 p.m.


Florida at one point in the first half had a game-high 10-point lead but improved offensive play combined with major foul trouble to the Gators’ frontcourt sent the team reeling. Sophomore center Patric Young, junior forward Erik Murphy and even freshman guard Bradley Beal each picked up two fouls and UF played the last third of the first half with an extremely small lineup.

“We got put in a tough situation … and we really got caught playing the last 6-7 minutes of the half with [Scottie] Wilbekin at the power forward spot. To be up three going into the half, I was really pleased,” Donovan explained.

“Our energy was waning a little bit. It is tough when you go Thursday-to-Saturday like we’ve got to do. I thought we were teetering to start the second half. […] I tried to just encourage those guys to keep battling and fighting, and I thought we did that. The thing that helped was trying to rotate guys in and out and keep them in for short bursts because I really thought [in] a lot of ways we were gassed.”

In addition to having Wilbekin at the four, Donovan also thrust redshirt junior G Mike Rosario into the three role. Both players did their best but no one had a bigger task than sophomore F Will Yeguete, who was tasked with controlling Vanderbilt C Festus Ezeli in the post while the big man was on the floor.

“It was a little confusing because Scottie was there playing the four. I was a little lost,” he admitted. “We had to just battle through because Pat and Erik had two fouls, so we just had to wait for the second half and do our best. We did a good job.”


If two players were to be singled out for their respective performances on Saturday, Beal and Yeguete would undoubtedly get those honors. After struggling in the first half, Beal hit two big threes in the second half, took a ball coast-to-coast for an impressive lay-in and netted four free throws down the stretch to help Florida offensively.

“I was really proud of Brad,” Donovan said. “He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well … in the first half. He didn’t have a great first half and didn’t do a whole lot but then he knocked down a big three for us that gave us the lead. He had a great transition drive; he got fouled one time going to the rim. He made a lot of really good plays that really impacted the game. The last 10 minutes of the game he really made some big plays.”

Still trying to improve his offensive game, Yeguete factored in mostly on the defensive end. He was the main cog causing the Gators’ press to be successful and gave the team a major boost while on the court for 29 minutes.

“He was great. He was really good in the press, disruptive, steals, deflections. He really exerted a lot of energy. He was a difference maker in the press for us,” Donovan said. “The thing with him that he’s great at – and he’s probably the best guy since Brent Wright who was here up there – there’s a lot of decisions he has to make in the press of when to go trap, when not to go trap, understanding how the floor is starting to move and look. He’s got a really high IQ of understanding hat. When he’s in that mode there where he can kind of freelance around, he can cause some problems. He was really disruptive.”


» Donovan on deciding to start Young after five-straight games on the bench: “Patric is too critical to our team and too valuable that I just forced him right back into the starting lineup. And that was a great decision because he played three minutes in the first half with two fouls. [Smiling] I’m not so sure if that was a good decision or not. […] It was nothing that he did or didn’t do.”

» Junior G Kenny Boynton on trying to end Kentucky’s home winning streak: “I’m very excited. We got the team to do it.”

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Beal leads No. 11/12 Florida past No. 25 Vanderbilt

An impressive all-around performance by freshman guard Bradley Beal – including 16 points on 50 percent shooting and seven rebounds in 30 minutes – led the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (19-4, 7-1 SEC) past the No. 25 Vanderbilt Commodores (16-7, 5-3 SEC) 73-65 Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

It was Florida’s seventh-straight victory and second in the last three days. UF has won 19 consecutive games in the O’Dome and four-in-a-row against Vanderbilt.

Though Beal was all over the court for the Gators, it was junior G Kenny Boynton who posted a team-high 18 points. Commodores’ forward Jeffery Taylor led all scorers with 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting (4-of-7 from downtown, 7-of-8 from the line).

Down 11-9 early in the contest, Florida exploded on a 10-0 run capped by five-straight points by Boynton to take an 19-11 lead with 9:33 left in the first half. Vanderbilt answered back with a 6-1 scoring stretch, but the Gators followed by notching seven points – a four-point play by Boynton and a trey from redshirt junior G Mike Rosario – to take a game-high 10-point lead on the Commodores with 5:36 remaining.

Florida, however, found themselves with three starters on the bench for the remainder of the half with Beal, sophomore center Patric Young and junior F Erik Murphy all sitting after each picked up two early fouls. Vanderbilt used this to their advantage, outscoring the Gators 11-5 down the stretch to reduce their deficit to three points at the break.

The Commodores started the second half equally as hot, scoring nine-straight points including eight by Taylor to take a 43-40 lead. Young picked up his third foul quickly and Florida started the half 1-for-10 from the field, giving Vanderbilt room to make their run.

The Gators would not relent, battling to keep the game close before putting together an impressive 12-0 run including a pair of dagger treys from Beal to take a 58-49 lead. The Commodores fought back, keeping their deficit in the low single digits the rest of the way.

Up just four and trying to close out the contest, Florida took a seven-point lead with 1:03 to go thanks to a dagger three by Boynton, but Taylor answered immediately giving Vanderbilt yet another glimmer of hope. The Gators would hold on for the victory though, hitting all 14 of their second half free throws including four in the final 39 seconds.

Florida was nearly perfect from the line, netting a season-best 16-of-17 attempts. The Gators only shot 38.3 percent from the field but nailed 45.8 percent of their attempts from downtown. UF outrebounded VU 39-34 (14-10 offensively) and forced the Commodores to commit 17 turnovers thanks to a strong press in the second half.

Vanderbilt outscored Florida 26-16 in the paint, but the Gators used 18 points off the bench – 10 of them from Rosario on 4-of-8 shooting – to pull out the win.

Senior point guard Erving Walker joined the backcourt trio as the fourth Florida player with double-digit points, posting 11 on a paltry 3-of-11 shooting performance. His game-high five assists thrust him past Eddie Shannon (493) into No. 2 on UF’s all-time list, giving Walker 495 dimes for his career.

He also passed Ronnie Williams (3,898) for No. 4 on the Gators’ career minutes list (3,906) and tied Tony Miller (1,212) for eighth in field goal attempts with 11 on Saturday.

Sophomore F Will Yeguete, playing major minutes with Young and Murphy on the bench in foul trouble, grabbed team-highs of eight boards and three steals. He was pesky on defense throughout the game and the main cog in UF’s successful press.

Taylor added a game-high four steals to his total for Vanderbilt and was supported by G John Jenkins (15 points), C Festus Ezeli (11 pointss) and F Lance Goulbourne (game-high 11 rebounds).

Florida will look to continue their hot streak when they travel to face No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday evening. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN and marks the third time this season the Gators will face a top-three ranked opponent.

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2/3: Donovan talks recruiting, prep for Vanderbilt

Set to play their second of three games in six days, No. 11/12 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan met with the media Friday to discuss a number of topics including the Vanderbilt Commodores, basketball recruiting and senior point guard Erving Walker‘s improved play in his final season.


When it comes to Vanderbilt, guard John Jenkins has been a thorn in Florida’s side each of the last three years. Leading the Commodores in minutes (33.2), points (19.9) and free throw shooting (85.7 percent), Jenkins is the consummate shooter and someone Donovan will obviously have the Gators’ defense focused on.

“He’s a great player. The three best guys I’ve seen shoot the ball – and I won’t say Lee Humphrey because I’ve coached him – that we’ve gone against in this league have been Rotnei Clark, Chris Lofton and Jenkins,” he said. “He is one of the best shooters that I’ve seen in this league. A guy that can really knock shots down. Guys that can do it under pressure with a lot of defense on them and people challenge shots are really phenomenal.”

However, Jenkins is not the only player Florida will have to deal with. Forward Jeffrey Taylor is also playing lights out, averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 boards while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and a team-high 46.3 percent from three. And 6’11” center Festus Ezeli, though he’s missed 10 games, is also dangerous in the frontcourt.

“He’s an incredible space eater. He’s a great shot blocker. He has great presence. Where he was as a freshman to where he is now, he’s really made some incredible growth in terms of his offensive game,” Donovan said of Ezeli. “He has developed offensively. He has learned how to seal and post up and create angles.”


Climbing his way up a number of all-time lists at Florida, Walker passed 1,200 career points Thursday and is just 15 points away from moving into No. 5 on the school’s scoring list. He is also three assists away from the No. 2 spot in that category, four three-pointers away from No. 3 on the list, 24 minutes away from No. 4 in court time and six trey attempts shy of No. 1 all-time at UF.

“It’s pretty amazing what he’s done at his size, a guy that came off the bench as a freshman and then moved into the starting position as a sophomore. In terms of his assists, three-point shooting, the scoring, it’s amazing a guy his size has been able to score at the level he’s been able to score at,” Donovan said.

“Any time you are able to score over 1,000 points in a career, that’s always a pretty good career offensively. I think he’ll go down as one of the better guards to play here just based on statistics and someone being here for four years.”

Walker has been concentrating on something other than scoring this season – taking care of the ball. His season-long assist/turnover ratio is 2.46, and he is first in the SEC in assists averaging 5.1 per game.

“He tries to do everything I ask him to do. We’ve talked about trying to lead the league in assists, and he’s right up there,” Donovan said. “He’s keeping his turnovers down. He’s starting to see and understand where his shots are coming from, when he needs to shoot and when he needs to pass. He’s getting better at it.”


Donovan was asked if there is a “gentlemen’s agreement” in college basketball when it comes to recruiting. In other words that a coach will not actively recruit a player committed to another school. A common practice in college football, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was accused of doing so by Wisconsin this week. He admitted as such and stated it was an aggressive action but not illegal and that many other schools do it as well. Below are Donovan’s thoughts:

“Yeah. I’ve always been amazed at football. There used to be a basketball coach – I’m not going to say his name – years ago he’s no longer coaching, when I first got in the business and a guy would commit, he would say, ‘Great now it’s down to two – me and you.’ I would say in basketball there is no question a gentlemen’s whatever. I will not recruit anybody who is committed. Never ever ever. That’s kind of a thing that goes on in basketball. And I have the right to recruit, but I think it’s kind of an unwritten or an unspoken law in basketball that once a guy is committed, that’s it.

“I have not done this but I know coaches will do this. If a guy is committed to a school and there is another school trying to change or break that commitment, the school he’s committed to will call up the coach and say, ‘What are you doing? This guy has made a decision. He’s already coming to our school.’ […] I’ve always been amazed in football that a guy is verbally committed somewhere and he’s taking official visits to other places. That makes no sense to me. He shouldn’t commit anywhere if he’s not really sure. It just seems that’s what goes on.

“Al Horford is a perfect example. Al Horford committed to Michigan. I had a person very close to Al in the recruitment who said that he felt like he made a mistake and he would like to come to Florida. I said, ‘I’m not going to recruit him. The only way that I would recruit him is if he calls up the coach at Michigan and tells him that he has decided to open up his recruitment. But I’m not going to talk to you about Florida, and I’m not going to talk to you about anything. It’s got to be his decision.’ Al obviously did that. I’m not going to pick up the phone and talk to a kid that’s already committed somewhere and tell him why he shouldn’t go there and that he’s making a mistake there.

“There’s kids that decommit all the time. Austin Rivers decommited last year and he decided to open up his recruitment. […] I don’t know if other schools were tampering with Austin or not or talking to him. It’s one of those things where I just don’t do that. I would say that most of college basketball coaches don’t do that once a guy is committed. That’s like an across the board consensus.”


» On if he “ripped into the team” following their victory on Thursday: “I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that sometimes you’re better off watching the film. I would say most of the time my assessment just sitting there is accurate but there are times where you look at something and you think something was the problem and it’s not.”

» On the quick turnaround: “There’s no question the stretch that we have coming up is going to be very demanding, very tough playing against a lot of good teams. […] What you have to do is put all of your focus and energy into what is in front of you right now. They’ll eventually all play themselves out.”

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2/2: Florida vs. South Carolina post-game notes

The No. 11/12 Florida Gators earned their 18th consecutive home victory Thursday by defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks 74-66 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The first of three games in six days, Florida’s victory left head coach Billy Donovan with plenty to talk about heading into the next contest on Saturday at 1 p.m.


The Gators’ offensive rebounding since the Southeastern Conference slate began has left much to be desired. Donovan was particularly bothered with the fact that junior guard Kenny Boynton (four) had more offensive boards than both freshman G Bradley Beal (two) and junior forward Erik Murphy (two) heading into Saturday’s game.

“Brad and Erik have got to get better at making that concerted effort, every time a shot is taken, at going to the glass,” he explained. Beal grabbed five offensive rebounds Thursday, and Murphy added two more, putting a smile on Donovan’s face.

“What won the game for us tonight is that we really did a good job getting to the offensive glass … and the fact that we got to the free throw line 32 times,” he said.

Florida shot poorly from the charity stripe in the first half but hit seven of their last eight attempts to finish 71.9 percent (23-of-32). The Gators’ free throw shooting has improved immensely since the beginning of the season, so much so that Donovan even feels comfortable giving one player a hard time when he starts off inconsistent in that area.

“I told Brad Beal, ‘I’m going to change your number to No. 12 for 1-for-2.’ He goes to the free throw line and is 1-for-2 the entire time,” Donovan joked.


The following video, courtesy of UF, shows Donovan’s charge drill during practice. This should help provide fans with some idea why players like redshirt junior G Mike Rosario have improved in this facet of the game throughout the season.

Watch the video and read post-game quotes…after the break!
Continue Reading » 2/2: Florida vs. South Carolina post-game notes

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No. 11 Florida holds on to best South Carolina

Looking to begin a stretch of three games in six days on a high note, the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (18-4, 6-1 SEC) used a game-high 24 points by junior guard Kenny Boynton and a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds from freshman G Bradley Beal to top the South Carolina Gamecocks (9-12, 1-6 SEC) 74-66 on Thursday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Boynton and Beal were two of three Gators to score in double figures Friday as senior point guard Erving Walker chipped in 14 points with seven assists, four boards, two steals and just three turnovers in the winning effort.

As has been tradition recently, Florida got off to their usual hot start and used a 14-2 run as well as a 12-1 rebounding advantage to take a 17-point lead with 9:55 left in the first half. South Carolina responded with a quick 6-0 scoring stretch to cut their deficit to 11, but UF regained their half-high lead with five minutes left until the break.

The Gamecocks, however, were the aggressors at the end of the half, outscoring the Gators 9-1 over the final 3:54 as UF fell silent from the field. Florida still headed into the locker rooms with a nine-point lead as well as a 23-11 advantage on the glass.

After giving up a basket to start the second half, the Gators used a 6-0 run including consecutive jumpers by Walker to leap back ahead 12 points. Trading baskets the rest of the way, the Gamecocks got within six with 4:08 to play, but a highlight dunk by Beal appeared to push the momentum back in UF’s favor.

That would not wind up being the case for Florida, which gave up back-to-back three-pointers to South Carolina G Bruce Ellington and forward Anthony Gill, decreasing their advantage to five points with 2:51 remaining in the contest.

The Gators began consistently hitting their free throws late in the contest, but Gamecocks G Brenton Williams hit a transition three from the corner to put USC down five again with 50.1 seconds left.

It would be too little too late for South Carolina, which sent Florida to the line four times in the last minute and saw the Gators hit seven-of-eight free throws to close out the team’s 12th consecutive victory in the O’Dome.

The Gators have now won six-straight games since falling to Tennessee in their SEC opener with victories of eight points or more in all but one contest.

Florida registered 12 assists on 22 baskets but struggled with their ball control, turning it over 13 times. However, the Gators scored 21 points off 15 Gamecocks’ turnovers and outrebounded their opponent 42-30 (20-10 offensively).

Coming off the bench for the fifth consecutive contest, sophomore center Patric Young scored just five points and had four turnovers but grabbed five boards (four offensive) in 25 minutes. Beal’s 11 rebounds were a game-high, and sophomore F Will Yeguete added eight grabs off the glass.

Junior F Erik Murphy had his worst shooting performance of the season, going 2-of-10 from the field (0-for-4 from downtown), but did notch six rebounds.

With eight attempts from three, Boynton (656) moved into fourth place on Florida’s all-time list, passing Lee Humphrey. Similarly, Walker and his 11 field goal attempts moved him past Brett Nelson (1,197) and up to ninth all-time at UF (1,201).

The Gators look to keep their streaks going when they host Vanderbilt on Saturday in their second of three games over six days. Tip off is set for 1 p.m. live on CBS.

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