No. 14 Gators cage Tigers 76-64 in Gainesville

A week off appeared to do the No. 14/17 Florida Gators (15-4, 3-1 SEC) plenty of good as head coach Billy Donovan squad looked focused and energized on its way to a 76-64 victory over the LSU Tigers (12-7, 2-3 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday night.

Led by a standout performance from junior forward Erik Murphy, who scored a team-high 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-for-4 from downtown), the Gators shot 56.3 percent from the field and 74.1 percent (20-for-27) on two-point attempts on their way to winning their 16th game in a row at the O’Dome.

LSU took the early momentum in the game, taking an early 10-4 lead while hitting four of their first five attempts from the field.

Though Florida sophomore F Will Yeguete took his place in the starting lineup for the second-straight game, sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) entered the contest less than four minutes after it started and scored six-straight points to tie the game at 10.

The Gators began to get on the Tigers’ nerves with their press and the offense took advantage of the defense’s success. Three-pointers from Murphy and freshman guard Bradley Beal bookended a 13-4 run that gave Florida their first lead of the game, 23-16, with 8:44 remaining in the first half.

UF kept the momentum going through the end of the half, using a 7-0 run to take a game-high 38-26 lead into the break.

Consecutive treys by redshirt junior G Mike Rosario and sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin put the Gators ahead a game-high 16 points with 13:39 left, but LSU stitched together a 10-2 run to cut the Tigers’ deficit in half with 7:46 remaining.

Florida maintained its eight-point lead with three minutes left in the game and that’s when senior PG Erving Walker took over, scoring eight of UF’s last 10 points.

Murphy was one of five Gators to score in double figures. Walker posted 12 points but only hit 1-of-6 attempts from downtown, and three other Florida players – Beal, Rosario and junior G Kenny Boynton – added 11 points each.

Walker moved into seventh all-time at UF in career scoring by the end of the contest, passing Gene Shy, Matt Bonner and Eugene McDowell with 1,575 points.

Beal’s eight boards were a team-high, and Rosario played 15 solid minutes off the bench. Boynton went 0-for-4 from three, ending a 34-game streak of hitting at least one trey. The mark was second-longest in school history behind Lee Humphrey (39).

LSU F Justin Hamilton led his team throughout the entire game, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds (five offensive), but his sterling effort was simply not enough to earn the Tigers a victory.

In addition to outshooting LSU from the field and at the line, Florida outrebounded their opponent 30-29. The Tigers committed 10 turnovers in the first half but just one in the second, forcing the Gators to cough up the ball on one more occasion over the course of the evening (12). UF also outscored LSU 36-32 in the paint and 24-10 off the bench.

Florida will once again have a nice break before playing two games over the course of three days. The Gators will travel to Ole Miss on Thursday for a 7 p.m. game (ESPN2) before hosting Mississippi State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (SEC Network).

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Young, Joyer, Spikes, Williams

1 » Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan confirmed to UF’s Chris Harry on Thursday that sophomore center Patric Young will indeed be playing Saturday against LSU though he does not know if he will be in the starting lineup for the game. Harry also caught up with Young, who said his ankle tendinitis hurt so much that “when it was hurting the worst, I really couldn’t jump off two feet.” He knows that he can impact his team even if not on the court. “You can be a vocal and encouraging presence for your teammates,” he said. Florida’s trainer Dave Werner, asked by Harry about Young’s injury, said that it is going to be “a discomfort that he’s going to need to play through [so he] might as well get used to it.”

2 » UF’s Scott Carter dropped a tidbit about a football player Friday, noting that Gators freshman fullback Hunter Joyer will compete in his first collegiate track and field meet on Sunday. Joyer will participate in the shot put at the Gator Invite in Gainesville, FL. He is one of three Florida football players who will do double duty with the track and field squad this year as senior running back/junior sprinter Jeff Demps and redshirt junior wide receiver/senior jumper Frankie Hammond, Jr. will also participate.

3 » Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently spoke with the Boston Globe and gave his opinions about a number of players on the New England Patriots. He called linebacker Brandon Spikes “arguably the most physical and violent inside linebacker” in the NFL and believes his return to the field recently is a big boost for New England’s defense. Spikes was criticized out of Florida for his speed and many assumed he would not be drafted until the fourth or fifth round, but head coach Bill Belichick recognized his talent and selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the No. 62 overall pick.

4 » The Gators were supposed to have seven enrollees join the team in January but instead just six of Florida’s 2012 commitments were able to join the squad on time. Three-star defensive end Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, GA) had his admission delayed as he waited to see if the NCAA Clearinghouse would accept his early graduation. The organization recently denied him the ability to enroll early and ruled that he must retake three classes in order to get better grades. UF still expects him to be part of the 2012 class and join the program in the summer.

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, Chandler, Tebow, Trail

1 » For the second-straight year, Florida Gators head basketball coachBilly Donovan is participating in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is in the contest for the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization just as he did one year ago when Florida fans cast the most online votes for him and the foundation. The eight-week-long contest began Jan. 18 with a winner being announced March 9. There were only 14 participants in 2011 but that number has increased to 48 this year. For more information and to vote for Donovan and the foundation (which supports Shands Hospital at UF), go here and click on South Region. Former Gators assistant coach Anthony Grant (Alabama, The Sweet Home Fund) and head coach Lon Kruger (Oklahoma, Coaches vs. Cancer) are also participating though Grant is also in the South Region with Donovan.

2 » Former Florida wide receiver and 11-year NFL veteran Wes Chandler has agreed to be the WR coach at California, the school divulged Wednesday evening. Though it will be just his second stint on the college level (Central Florida, 1994-95), Chandler has coached receivers in NFL Europe (1995-1999), the NFL (2000-2008) and the UFL (2009). He was a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC player with the Gators who made it to four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams in his NFL career. Chandler was also inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 1989 after catching 92 passes for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns in his four years at Florida. He was the team’s leading receiver for three-straight years from 1975-77.

3 » On ESPN’s Jim Rome Is Burning Wednesday, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was asked about quarterback Tim Tebow, the impact he had on the team this year and how good he can be in the future. “I think Tim has a lot to prove still,” Bailey said on the show. “He’s proven he can win some tough games. Now it’s just being consistent. One thing about him, he’s going to work at it, and I’m behind him 100 percent.” Bailey also said “the sky is the limit” for Tebow and believes that he will have plenty of time to improve his arm starting this offseason, Tebow’s first as the primary signal caller with the club.

4 » Another former Gators player has found a new home with defensive end Lynden Trail enrolling at Norfolk State this week. Trail, who transferred following the 2011 regular season, transferred for playing time reasons after failing to dress most games and not stepping on the field once this past year.

Extra BIT » You want Tebow pizza? You got it.

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1/18: Donovan on Young’s ankle, Murphy’s head

The No. 14/17 Florida Gators earned their first true road victory last Saturday by defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks 79-65 in Columbia, SC. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) out of the starting lineup and hobbled with an injury, head coach Billy Donovan updated his player’s status on Wednesday and spoke about a number of other topics concerning the team.

YOUNG WILL PLAY, STATUS AS STARTER REMAINS DAY-TO-DAY

Donovan’s suspicions were confirmed Wednesday when he said that Young is not dealing with any structural or ligament damage to his ankle but is rather experiencing inflammation as a result of tendinitis. The positives are that he will not miss games nor has to wear a boot or walk around on crutches. However, the negative is that even with a week “off” Young will play but may not be able to start on Saturday against LSU.

“He’s just got some pretty significant inflammation in the area that’s causing the problem with it,” he said. “The best thing for him right now is rest. There’s nothing there for him that is going to keep him out of games or prevent him from playing or anything that we’ve got to do in terms of holding him for a period of time.”

As for starting, how much Young is able to do in practice during the week will determine his status on Saturday. He will continue to get rehab and take medication to reduce the inflammation in the meantime.

“That’s going to be the big thing – what he’s going to be able to do and can do and what he can tolerate and handle,” Donovan said. “If it’s a situation where he’s in the same position he was against South Carolina, it would probably be a decision I would make closer to the game. Certainly want to give him every opportunity to come back.”

MURPHY’S ISSUE “A BLESSING IN DISGUISE”

Faced with a legal issue in the offseason, junior forward Erik Murphy had a lot of decisions to make about his life and career as a basketball player. Donovan helped him face those questions head-on and said he believes Murphy is better for doing so not only as a player but as a person, too.

“It really forced him to look at the fact that, at this point in time, he’s only got two years left in his career. What kind of career does he want to have? What kind of commitment does he want to make not only to the basketball piece of it but to the academic part of his life? What does he want to do?” Donovan said. “It probably really forced him to do some soul searching in terms of what was important to him.

“Erik, in a lot of ways, was kind of just floating though life. I was able to post him up and pin him up a little bit and kind of get his back against the wall to make a decision on who you want to be as a person, who you want to be as a player, who you want to be as a student.”

Murphy is thankful for Donovan putting him in that position and now understands that the adversity and issues he put on himself over the summer has put him in a better position to succeed in life.

“The offseason issue made me grow up really quick. It definitely helped me. It was a blessing in disguise, I think, to make me grow up mentally and mature,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the improvement of redshirt freshman F/C Cody Larson: “I’m gaining more and more confidence and trust in Cody. I’ve put him in the last several games and I think he’s given us some good minutes although they haven’t been a lot of minutes.”

» Donovan on redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario becoming trustworthy off the bench: “It’s all stemmed from practice. He’s really been pretty consistent, pretty responsible, pretty reliable. He’s built up a lot of trust in myself and in his teammates. Earlier in the year, probably some of his limited minutes had to do with a lot of his defensive focus. As that has started to get better, his back became a problem, his foot became a problem. The last two weeks since he’s been back from his ankle, he’s been pretty locked in, pretty solid and has done a good job for us.”

» Donovan on sophomore F Will Yeguete as a rebounder: “I definitely think his instincts play a long part in it. He’s very long-armed and guys that are really good offensive rebounders have a great ability to see a play developing or recognizing when a shot is going up and at times follow the flight of the ball or be able to guess where it’s coming off. The biggest thing in being a good rebounder is you have to rebound out of your area. Anybody can rebound in a telephone booth but can you spread out and cover the backboard a little bit? Will’s got a pretty good ability to cover a wide spread of the glass with his arm length, and he’s a pretty quick jumper.”

» Rosario on working on improving his defense: “One of the most important things is guarding the ball and guarding off the ball, so that’s what I’ve been trying to conquer these last couple of weeks.”

» Rosario on not focusing on defense at his previous stop: “At Rutgers, I had to basically be an offensive threat the whole game in order for us to stay in the game and in order for us to try and win the game. By me being that type of player I had to be at Rutgers, it took a lot of energy out of me. Plus playing 37-40 minutes a game and plus trying to do both ends of the floor, it was a little bit too much for me.”

» Rosario on joining a winning tradition at Florida: “It’s good to be here because there are a lot of teams here that won in a lot of categories – tennis, soccer. When you have a program like that with a lot of athletes and a lot of talent and a lot of pros in one program, it says a lot about the program and the school as well. I wanted to surround myself around that because I wanted to compete around a lot of people that are trying to make it to the next level as well as me.”

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Five Qs with No. 25 – Rockets F Chandler Parsons

Less than a quarter of the way through the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, Houston Rockets rookie forward Chandler Parsons is already making a name for himself. Though his team currently sports a 7-7 record and is two games behind Southwest Division leader San Antonio, Houston is on a 5-2 winning stretch ever since head coach Kevin McHale promoted Parsons to the starting lineup on Jan. 7.

Parsons is averaging 9.3 points, 6.7 boards, 2.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game as a starter, shooting 45.9 percent from the field in 29.6 minutes of action. OGGOA caught up with Parsons Wednesday on a rare non-game day to discuss his early success in the league and how he hopes to improve as the season goes on.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Obviously you’ve had a real solid start to your rookie season. What has the fan reaction in Houston been like and how does it all feel?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “It’s an unbelievable feeling and a great opportunity. The fans have been tremendous just with their support and all of the love they have given me on Facebook. The people have been unbelievable. It’s really a blessing to be able to come out here and play and be able to help my team so early on in my career.”

AS: Even back at Florida you always had a knack for following up your teammates’ shots and either grabbing the rebound or putting the ball back in the hoop with a dunk. I know you worked on this even more over the summer in California with Don MacLean. Can you talk about some of his teachings and how working with him has helped you?
CP: “Basically every drill that you do with Don MacLean, he always emphasizes finishing strong and finishing at the rim. When I first went in there, I would do layups or floaters and he wouldn’t let me do that anymore. He would make me dunk everything. It just gave me the aggressive mindset to attack the rim. I knew coming into the league that it would be physical; everyone is faster and everyone is stronger. I just want to go to the hoop aggressively every time I attack and not settle for anything weak. It’s a physical league so being able to play the last couple of weeks and these first games, [you can tell] it’s just very physical. There’s nothing easy, so when you go to the rim you’ve got to go strong.”

AS: Gators head coach Billy Donovan last week said that he was especially proud of how well you’ve been playing at the start of your rookie season. How did your last two years at Florida, and perhaps more specifically Donovan’s coaching, help prepare you to play in the NBA and perform at this level?
CP: “He has helped me unbelievably. I give a lot of credit to Coach Donovan because everything that my coaching staff at the Rockets wants and emphasizes, I’ve already heard and seen form Coach Donovan. He taught me how to work and what goes into winning. Coming into the league, I didn’t get hit blindly by anything because he prepared me so well for the NBA. Everything that’s been thrown at me I’ve been prepared for and that has a lot to do with our entire coaching staff at Florida.”

Continue Reading » Five Qs with No. 25 – Rockets F Chandler Parsons

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Beal, Patriots, Mincey, Matthews

1 » A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday that Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow “tore cartilage on his first rib where it attaches to the sternum, bruised his lung and had fluid buildup in his pleural cavity” at the beginning of the third quarter of Saturday’s game against New England. If you were watching the game, you may remember Tebow being hit hard and backup Brady Quinn warming up on the sidelines. Tebow stayed in the game even though his team wound up being routed 45-10. “Because of the severe pain, Tebow had trouble sleeping over the weekend, then had an MRI on his chest Monday to determine the extent of the damage,” Schefter reports. “He has been undergoing rehab throughout the week.”

UPDATE: The Denver Post confirmed Tebow’s chest injuries but added that he also hurt his “right, non-throwing shoulder” during the game. Additionally, the injuries are bad enough where “Tebow in all likelihood would not have been able to play in the AFC championship game this week” if the Broncos had won last Saturday. The Post goes on to say that should Tebow be selected as a Pro Bowl alternate, “he is not likely to be able to play” in that game either even though no surgery is required and he is expected to be 100 percent for the start of conditioning workouts in April.

2 » Despite a request from CBS inviting Tebow to join the network’s NFL Today program on Sunday to preview and discuss the conference championship round of the NFL Playoffs, he has instead to spend some time away from football and not appear on the show, telling the Denver Post’s Mike Klis on Tuesday, “I’m not doing it.”

3 » In a new feature from ESPN, Dana O’Neil takes a look at Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal and his siblings, which includes two other former scholarship athletes – one a tight end at Northern Illinois and the other an offensive lineman at Alabama State. Beal lucked out when it came his turn to be recruited as his parents “Bobby and Besta learned from their own mistakes with their older boys” and were more prepared for the circus, “shepherd[ing] him through the heady experience by keeping him humble, reminding him that being a good teammate was as important as being a good player,” O’Neil writes. His selflessness is one thing that Florida head coach Billy Donvoan has praised him about since day one. Having apparently worked through some early struggles, Beal is focused on helping the Gators and doesn’t need his mom or his coach criticizing him to know what he does wrong on the court, even though he’ll happily listen and accept their advice. “I’m my own biggest critic, but now I try to go back to my room and contemplate my mistakes,” he said. “I watch film and try to learn from them. I’m trying to understand I need to embrace the adversity.”

4 » While Tebow was defeated on Saturday, the three former Gators playing for the New England Patriots will be advancing to the next round of the playoffs. Tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of the Patriots’ biggest contributors all game, appeared to suffer a concussion during the contest but told reporters Wednesday that he is good to go for Sunday’s game. “I feel great,” he said, “Ready to play.” Knowing head coach Bill Belichick, Hernandez (even if cleared to play Wednesday) will be listed as questionable all week heading into the game. Linebacker Brandon Spikes had some kind words for New England fans, praising the home crowd for being loud during Saturday’s game. However, according to Patriots.com writer Erik Scalavino, he laughed and said it was still nothing like playing in The Swamp.

5 » Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Gene Smith made it clear when speaking Tuesday night that signing the team’s free agents – including veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey – will be his first priority in the offseason. Mincey had a career year in 2011, starting all 16 games for Jacksonville and totaling 57 tackles, eight sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. In somewhat related news, former UF head coach Ron Zook is interviewing for the special teams coach job with the Jaguars. Mincey replied to OGGOA‘s tweet about Zook interviewing, throwing his support behind his former coach and saying, “I hope he gets it.”

6 » Nease High School – where Tebow got his start as a youngster in Jacksonville, FL – has hired none other than former Florida quarterback Shane Matthews as the team’s new head coach. A former assistant at Gainesville High School, Matthews has never been a high school head coach before but told The St. Augustine Record that he is excited about the opportunity. “I felt Nease had a lot to offer,” Matthews said. “It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do, but it had to be the right fit and I feel like this is.” He plans to run a balanced but fun offense and said that his former head coach Steve Spurrier’s teachings will undoubtedly be an influence in everything he does.

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Former Gators light up the NBA on Tuesday

Eight former Florida Gators basketballers competed in five of the seven NBA games played on Tuesday and most ended the night with praiseworthy performances.

Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee posted a team-high 29 points (on 13-of-20 shooting) with nine boards (four offensive) and three assists in a team-high 35 minutes as Golden State went on to upend Cleveland 105-95.

Similarly dominant, Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer played a team-high 34 minutes off the bench, scoring a team-best 22 points (on 8-of-14 shooting) with four rebounds, two steals and a block. Denver defeated Milwaukee 105-95.

The Miami Heat had two former Gators in action but guard Mike Miller, who dressed for the first time this year after being forced to miss the first 12 games of the season due to having offseason hernia surgery, was the most impressive. Miller went a perfect 6-for-6 from downtown for 18 points and added four rebounds in just 15 minutes.

Also coming off the bench for the Heat was PF Udonis Haslem, who registered four points and two boards. Like Haslem, San Antonio Spurs PF Matt Bonner was efficient with three points and six rebounds, but San Antonio Fell to Miami 120-98.

Still fighting through a hand ailment, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had arguably his best game of the season, posting his third double-double of the year with 13 points (6-of-10 shooting) and 12 boards (six offensive) to go along with three dimes in 28 minutes. Chicago took down Phoenix 118-97.

Wrapping things up were former teammates going head-to-head as the Houston Rockets and surging rookie F Chandler Parsons defeated the Detroit Pistons and PF Vernon Macklin 97-80. Parsons once again earned the start and played 31 minutes (second-most on the team), scoring seven points and adding seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Macklin only saw one minute of on-court action.

And though the game occurred one day earlier, former Florida C Marreese Speights, now with the Memphis Grizzlies, had his most impressive showing of the season on Monday. Speights started and saw 34 minutes of action, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 boards (four offensive) for his first double-double this year. Memphis wound up beating down Chicago 102-86.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Pease, tennis, Swamp, WBK

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow may have been eliminated from the NFL Playoffs on Saturday, but CBS would like to keep him around for a while. According to USA Today, which spoke with CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, the network has reached out to Tebow to sit in as a guest analyst for the studio show the way Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh did last week. There has not been a public response from the Tebow camp as of press time.

2 » ESPN recently spoke with former players who were once coached by new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and asked each what one should expect from him as a coach. Former Kentucky wide receiver Derek Abney classified Pease as someone who coaches “through discipline and assertiveness” but noted that his team was winning thanks in part to his methods. He also noted that Pease “didn’t make you fit into his scheme. He recognized your strengths and played to them and avoided weaknesses,” something that should undoubtedly have Gators fans smiling considering the offense is still on its way to becoming a complete pro-style team.

3 » A pair of Gators tennis players won consolation singles titles in separate events over the weekend. Junior Caroline Hitimana captured a victory at the 2012 Freeman Memorial Championships over Duke’s Ester Goldfeld, while sophomore Michael Alford came away a winner at the 2012 SEC Coaches’ Indoor Championships by taking down both Kentucky’s Ryuji Hirooka and South Carolina’s Kyle Koch. The women’s and men’s tennis programs enter the 2012 regular season ranked No. 1 and No. 8, respectively, despite the men’s team losing 2011 No. 6 Alexandre Lacroix and the No. 17 team of Lacroix and Sekou Bangoura, Jr. from a year ago.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Tebow, Pease, tennis, Swamp, WBK

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