1/10: Florida-Georgia post-game news and notes

The No. 19 Florida Gators opened their Southeastern Conference home schedule Tuesday with a rout of Georgia, providing head coach Billy Donovan with plenty of things to talk about when he met with the media following the game. Florida is next set to play South Carolina on the road Saturday at 7 p.m.

INTENSITY BETTER BUT NEEDS TO BE EVEN MORE CONSISTENT

Donovan admonished the Gators following their loss on the road last weekend for the team’s lack of intensity and aggression away from home. Though Florida showed a renewed effort in both of those areas Tuesday, UF’s game was at home and not nearly as difficult of a situation. The Gators held Georgia to a season-low 48 points, which undoubtedly pleased Donovan.

“We did a pretty good job defensively,” he said after the contest. “Our effort was really there for most of the game. This was probably the one game I was disappointed in our rebounding, especially in the second half. We gave up way too many offensive rebounds and loose basketballs. I was much more pleased with our effort on that end of the floor, our level of awareness, being sharp, focused. I thought we defended them very well and obviously we held them to 48 points. You hold any team to 48 points, and I think you’ve done a pretty good job defensively.”

However, Donovan was still upset with one aspect of the game – Florida not putting their foot on UGA’s collective throat when up by 25 points and instead allowing their opponent to reduce their deficit by nearly 50 percent.

“You’re up by 25 points, how do they get back in the game? Well, they get back in the game by making threes, they get back in the game by offensive rebounds, and they get back in the game by [your team] making really poor decisions and taking quick shots on offense,” he explained. “We did all three of those things in the second half. We took quick shots, we gave up offensive rebounds and we gave them threes, so the lead goes from 25 or 22 down to 13 or 14. We’ve just got to have a little bit better awareness of what is going on.”

Sophomore center Patric Young, who grabbed 10 boards and scored just eight points, thinks the Gators could have done even better. “I feel like we should’ve held them to under 30, I’m just saying, because if you take away the offensive rebounds and the open threes and the second-chance points, it’s a completely different game,” he said.

BEAL, ROSARIO GETTING BACK TO NORMAL

Freshman guard Bradley Beal, one of the top high school players in the country last year, has shown major flashes so far with Florida but has also been quite inconsistent, turning the ball over plenty and going on some rough stretches of not being able to find the bottom of the hoop. He broke out of that slump Tuesday, tying for a game-high with 17 points on 4-of-6 shooting from downtown with 10 rebounds.

“The last couple of [weeks] one of the things he has struggled with is a comfort level – what’s open and what’s available. I really felt like the last couple of days in practice he was starting to figure some things out offensively in terms of when he should be looking to shoot, when he should be looking to pass,” Donovan said about Beal’s improvement. “That’s been something that’s bogged him down a little bit because he’s so unselfish, but I think he had a much better feel and flow today offensively than he’s had in a few games.”

Also stepping up was redshirt junior G Mike Rosario, who Donovan said had two great days of practice on Sunday and Monday. Additionally, Rosario is feeling better after suffering through back and ankle injuries and even scored seven-straight points to launch the Gators on a 22-4 run in the first-half that put them ahead 20 points.

After the game, Rosario said it “felt great to go out there and just be able to compete again to my full ability” and knows that there is “a lot that I can bring to the table for the team.” He also praised Donovan for the impact he has had on him both as a player and a person.

“We embrace all of Coach D’s challenges. Every challenge he brings to the table, we embrace it because it’s a step to get better in life and also it’s a step to get more mature as a man,” he explained. “When you got to take on challenges and be responsible for your actions, it says a lot about you as a man. So that’s what Coach D really wants us to focus on – being responsible and being on edge.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on Florida playing better on the this Saturday: “Can we now flip that switch mentally and be able to take that [intensity and effort] to the road? That’s the challenge in trying to help those guys do that. It will be something we’ll focus on going into Columbia.”

» Young on the Gators needing to step it up on the road: “When you’re on the road you have to play twice as hard because any team at home doesn’t want to get beat on their own court. We didn’t come out with that same effort. We came out with that average attitude that we could just come out like it was any other game.”

» Donovan on redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson practicing better recently and getting more playing time: “I’ve been really happy with Cody. He’s really worked hard. His attitude has been great. He’s done a really nice job. He’s come every single day with a great attitude – just works and gets better. Even in the Tennessee game I put him in for a couple minutes to rest Patric. You know what? He’s getting better and I feel more comfortable with him.”

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FOUR Tebow BITS: Top 10, marketing, support TWO BITS: early enrollees, Shaw’s destination

1 » The Late Show with David Letterman, one of if not the most popular late-night talk show in the United States, has aired a famous Top 10 list every evening since its inception. On Tuesday night, that list was based on little-known facts about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Thanks to Twitter follower Erica S. for the heads-up.

2 » Six Florida Gators 2012 commitments have already enrolled early and begun their college careers this spring. As of press time, three-star defensive back Willie Bailey (Hallandale, FL), four-star guard Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, FL), five-star tackle D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, NC), four-star JUCO defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (Scooba, MS), four-star linebacker Antonio Morrison (Bolingbrook, IL) and four-star wide receiver Latroy Pittman have joined the team and will participate in spring practice. However, three-star defensive end Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, GA) – who was expected to enroll early with his teammates – has not yet had his transcript approved by the NCAA Clearninghouse, according to ESPN.com. Williams and the school hope to have the situation “resolved by the end of the week” but worst-case scenario he can just enroll with the rest of the signees in the summer.

3 » Speaking of Tebow, a new article in Advertising Age takes a look at his marketing potential following a eventful and successful season. Rich Thomaselli believes Tebow “could become a $10 million a year endorser if he keeps delivering like he did over the weekend,” sourcing sports-marketing experts like Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising. “He’s become an icon; he’s bigger than football,” Dorfman said. “He has the kind of marketing potential that could put him in the Tom Brady or Peyton Manning category.” Another executive, Darin David of The Marketing Arm, believes Tebow has already hit that category. “I’m not so sure he didn’t get to the $10 million level already after Sunday,” he said. “To do that in the playoffs, to do that against a team like the [Pittsburgh] Steelers, the game that was the highest-rated [wild card] playoff game in 20-something years? As a marketer, you want somebody like that. He doesn’t have the same kind of negative backlash as other players. He is just so newsworthy right now that you would want to capitalize on that.”

4 » On a conference call with New England media Tuesday, Tebow spoke about a number of topics heading into his second playoff game on Saturday.

On what he did to celebrate Sunday’s victory: “Honestly just when we left the stadium, I just went home and hung out with my close family, a few friends, my brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law, just hung out at the house and played with my nieces and nephews and had a good time.”

On if Sunday’s win matched his big wins at Florida: “I definitely was very blessed to have some great memories at Florida and very blessed to have some great teammates and special relationships and special wins.”

On how he and his teammates deal with the attention he gets: “For the most part it’s not like it’s something that you ask for. It’s something that, when they know that you care about them and that’s what matters, and you care about going out there and trying to get better every day and trying to be a great teammate, I don’t think they see the rest. Hopefully they see you as a friend and a teammate, and the rest is something that we laugh at and sometimes they make fun of you for.”

On going head-to-head with linebacker Brandon Spikes: “Yeah, that’ll be a lot of fun. I’ve gone against him enough times in practice. All of those spring practices we had, we had some fun going against each other. You’d like him on your team, but it’ll still be fun going against him. He’s a great player, and I wish him nothing but the best, and I look forward to giving him a hug. […] I remember a few times in some spring practices when he might have hit me a little light when I had one of those red jerseys on. He wasn’t supposed to hit me but he kind of gave me a little nudge.”

5 » Former Gators defensive back Joshua Shaw, who decided to transfer from the program after the regular season and was expected to attend UCLA next year, will instead transfer to USC, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com. Shaw, who wanted to return to the west coast and play closer to home, will be able to do so at a “prestigious school right around the corner,” his high school coach Jeff Williams told the website. ESPNLosAngeles also reports that Shaw will apply for a hardship waiver due to health problems in his family which could allow him to play in 2012 rather than wait until 2013.

6 » Tebow has been receiving plenty of support from around the sports landscape, but Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry went out of his way to praise the Denver quarterback after his team’s game Sunday evening. Gentry spent his entire post-game press conference talking about Tebow, which you can watch below:

The Suns team also had some fun with Tebow on Sunday. According to ValleyoftheSuns.com, Hakim Warrick Tebowed during the pregame huddle and a number of players were watching the Broncos game in the locker room before their contest began. In fact, Phoenix players “may wear Tebow jerseys to shootaround on Tuesday in Los Angeles in part to have some fun with trainer Aaron Nelson” (a big Pittsburgh fan). Thanks to reader Steven for the heads-up.

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No. 19 Gators pound Bulldogs 70-48 at home

Looking to rebound from a double-digit upset loss to Tennesee on the road last Saturday, the No. 19 Florida Gators (13-4, 1-1 SEC) put their collective foot to the pedal at home against the Georgia Bulldogs (9-7, 0-2 SEC), routing their border rivals 70-48 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday.

Breaking out of a four-game funk, freshman guard Bradley Beal led the Gators with a double-double of 17 points on 4-of-7 shooting (4-of-6 from downtown) and 10 rebounds. Junior G Kenny Boynton matched him with 17 points of his own and was equally efficient, hitting 5-of-8 shots from the field and all five of his free throws.

If intensity and aggression were what Florida was missing over the weekend, the Gators found those characteristics early in the game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead capped by Beal’s first three-pointer of the game. Georgia started 1-for-10 from the floor, but the Bulldogs eventually found their touch, scoring six-straight to reduce UF’s advantage to two.

That is when Florida broke out. Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario scored seven-straight points for the Gators and Beal added a trio of treys as part of a 22-4 run that gave UF a 20-point lead. UGA, however, took an 8-2 scoring stretch into the break to reduce their deficit to 14 points heading into the locker rooms.

Though Beal was strong for Florida in the opening half – hitting 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc – the rest of the team took a while to get going, starting 0-for-6 from downtown.

The Gators extended their lead to 25 points early in the second half until an 8-0 run by the Bulldogs cut Florida’s advantage back down to 13 points with 7:02 left in the game.

Georgia kept the pressure on for a bit, but UF quickly got back to form, draining threes and playing quality defense. The Gators held the Bulldogs to just 48 points on the evening, a season-low for Florida’s defense.

UF has now defeated UGA in 10-straight games played in the O’Dome.

Boynton, who hit a pair of treys in the contest, moved into a tie for second on Florida’s all-time list of consecutive games with a three-pointer (Brett Nelson, 33). Gators sophomore center Patric Young got plenty of looks but scored just eight points to go along with a game-high 10 boards, which Beal also achieved.

Florida junior forward Erik Murphy was an uncharacteristic 0-for-4 from beyond the arc but notched two blocks in the contest and now has 13 over the last five games.

UF was once again outrebounded 34-33 by UGA, which had 14 takes via the offensive glass. The Gators only had eight assists on 24 baskets but turned the ball over just six times on the evening. Florida also shot 50 percent from the field (24-of-48) and 83.3 percent from the line (15-of-18).

Coming off a game in which their bench scored just one point, the Gators’ reserves posted 16 on Tuesday. Florida also maintained a lead the entire contest.

The Gators will look to keep their positive momentum going as they head back on the road to face South Carolina on Saturday at 7 p.m.. Florida is 0-4 in true road games this season and will look to earn their first victory live on Comcast Sports South.

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Donovan’s Monday presser, SEC teleconference

The No. 19 Florida Gators opened their Southeastern Conference schedule last Saturday with a tough double-digit loss to Tennessee, providing head coach Billy Donovan with plenty of ammunition when he met with the media on Monday and shared his thoughts on the loss as well as the two games Florida is set to play this week.

TEAM NEEDS TO FIND INTENSITY

Florida looked sluggish against Tennessee on Saturday, and if you ask Donovan why, he’ll tell you that is exactly what he saw, too. In fact, he thinks the Gators were “a step slow” in all aspects of the game – from offense and defense to rebounding and playing in transition. “We were always behind on the play. I didn’t think our awareness, our alertness was not good. We got beat off the dribble too much. We got beat inside too much. We were late reacting. We needed to do a much better job and play at a much better level to have a chance to beat anybody on the road in this league, and we did not do that up there,” he said during the SEC teleconference on Monday.

While Florida’s offense has been able to bail the team out of poor defensive performances before, Donovan said the Gators also lacked energy in that area. Unfortunately for UF, that carried over to the defensive end of the floor and Florida appeared to be defeated well before the final buzzer sounded.

“I thought they were the aggressor,” Donovan said in a press conference Monday. “It really bled to both ends of the floor, both offensively and defensively. Certainly as a coach you’re always disappointed when you got to admit this, but I really thought they played a whole heck of a lot harder than we did.

“My job, my responsibility as a coach is to get those guys prepared and ready to play at a level they need to. We did not play, in my opinion, with the level of energy that we needed to. When you’re not playing with the energy you need, what ends up happening is you are a step behind and the other team looks quicker, more athletic, more alert [and] better prepared. That to me was disappointing. Hopefully we can get that corrected and we can get better in that area and get prepared to play Georgia with a better effort.”

Freshman guard Bradley Beal agreed with Donovan’s assessment and understands where his coach is coming from. “Whenever we play hard, our offense comes off our defense,” he said. We really couldn’t get things going on offense because we weren’t doing good on defense. We really just, these past couple days, are trying to be physical and just trying to be basketball.”

NO SCORING ALLOWED ON SUNDAY

Florida met for two sessions on Sunday – one to watch film and figure out what went wrong and another to practice and try to improve before Tuesday’s tilt. During the actual practice, Donovan put covers on top of the hoops and ran an entire practice of defense and rebounding, two areas in which the Gators have been falling behind.

“We came back [from winter break] and we were probably somewhat hamstrung a little bit because of illnesses and sickness. I don’t think our practices leading up to the Rutgers game were at the intensity level that we needed them to be. Some of it was that we had guys out,” he explained. “I actually felt like going into the Tennessee game was the first time we’ve really had a full fledge of players and practice like I really would like to. Right now going forward, me being able to emphasize [defense and rebounding] in a competitive environment needs to happen more than maybe it’s happened in the past.”

Donovan continued, “In any situation where you do not play like you wanted to and you lose, I find that really good teams and really good players have an ability to be very self-reflective on themselves and what they need to do to get better. I thought our guys were that way. We had a chance to watch a good amount of film yesterday morning from the game. We had a chance to work on some things that I don’t think we did very well.”

Junior forward Erik Murphy thinks Donovan’s tactics worked. “It was real intense,” he said of Sunday’s practice. “We basically just played defense and rebounded the whole time. They got the bubbles up on the hoop so you had to rebound because those shots weren’t going in. We came out and I think we came out with the right mentality. We weren’t down on ourselves. We came out focused and we had to or else it would’ve been ugly. I think we’re headed down the right track right now.”

BEAL’S STRUGGLES ARE TEMPORARY, JUST GROWING PAINS

Beal has had a rough go of it as of late, missing tons of shots, turning the ball over and overall just not playing well. Donovan has noticed his struggles but thinks that there is an easy way for him to overcome his obstacles. “He’s got to have what I consider a nastiness to him, a meanness to him internally of fighting through and focusing on what’s the next play,” Donovan said. “He’s such a good kid and he wants to do the right things that sometimes when things don’t go well, he has a tendency to take himself back and he’s thinking about something that just happened and there’s a play going on right now. That’s an area of growth he’s got to go through.”

Though he was dealing with a sinus infection over the holidays, Beal is not using that as an excuse for his poor play and said that his “confidence will never be shaken” when it comes to the game of basketball. He also said that Donovan has helped him in so many ways that he believes he will finally be able to break out of his rut soon. “He’s been a very big help because he’s basically just getting me to calm down and relax and do things from his standpoint or as he was as a player,” Beal said. “He said I just have to play basketball. He said I’m going to go through adversity anyways, so I just have to play through it.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan said sophomore guard/forward Casey Prather, who hurt his ankle against Tennessee, is doubtful for Tuesday’s game against Georgia. The team planned to give him some work in practice on Monday, but the trainers were not optimistic he would be 100 percent by game time.

» Donovan evaluating Georgia before the game: “We realize that, at the start of league play, we’ve got to continue to improve and get better. Georgia’s a basketball team that has lost some players from a year ago in their frontcourt but obviously their backcourt play has been outstanding as they’ve added some very talented young freshman. We realize it will be a challenge for us again [Tuesday] night.”

» Donovan on the Florida-Georgia game being different for basketball: “I’ve been in the league for a while, and I think in terms of the schools, geographically how close the schools are makes a natural border rivalry there so to speak. […] When you’ve got that kind of rivalry border-wise, there’s always going to be a level of enthusiasm and excitement in fans and [things] people can get excited about. I do think it’s somewhat different than football because we will play each other twice a year, whereas football they play once a year in Jacksonville. More than anything else, Georgia’s program has been good and anytime you’re playing against a good program that’s as close as they are to yourself there’s always going to be a level of excitement.”

» Donovan on being 0-4 on the road: “The first two road games of the year were at No. 1 and No. 3, Syracuse and Ohio State – tough places to play, really good teams. Then we went to Rutgers, a difficult place to play; Knoxville is a difficult place to play. When you go on the road to play, you’re probably not going to shoot the ball nearly as well and you got to be able to have something to hang your hat on. Being able to defend, get good shots, those kinds of things become important. Regardless of who you’re playing on the road, especially now that we’re in conference play every road game is difficult. And I think every home game is difficult; I don’t think there are any easy games per se where you can just show up and play, and we’ll have to play a lot better against Georgia than we did against Tennessee.”

» Donovan on if the Gators are getting the ball to sophomore center Patric Young enough: “That’s one of the challenges we’re having right now as a team. Our guys are looking for Patric. For Erving [Walker] and Kenny [Boynton], it’s a different frontcourt for them than they’ve had to deal with the last two years. Vernon [Macklin] and Alex [Tyus] were pretty much at the basket. Chandler [Parsons] with his size was a great facilitator of our offense. Patric obviously with his athleticism, big and strong, Murphy is more of a stretch four, and Brad is a freshman. One of the things offensively is there are things we run at Patric to try and get him the ball and get him touches but scouting over a period of time, teams are going to take those things away. You got to be able to flow in offense and take advantage of what’s available and what’s open based on trying to put the defense in some binds and have to have them make some decisions. That’s an area we really need to get better at. We got to get better at making those decisions of recognizing him when we’re coming in transition and something’s happened.”

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Gators lose Salt, miss out on Jenkins, Birch

Two days after the football team got arguably their second-best prospect of the 2012 cycle, the Florida Gators‘ two major sports programs suffered a trio of recruiting losses.

Early in the evening it was announced via the major recruiting services that four-star JUCO defensive tackle Visesio Salt (Walnut, CA), who decided on Dec. 18 that he would transfer and play for Florida next year, instead chose to remain closer to home and join the Utah football program. Salt wanted to commit to Utah out of high school but was unable to qualify due to his poor grades.

“It’s just the fact that it’s good to be at home with my family,” he told InsidetheGators.com. “They can come out and see every single game, every home game. It’s right down the street. It was going to be tough for them to come see me play at Florida. There was going to be a lot of money being spent. This is better for them. This is all about them.”

The Gators coaches, though dismayed to lose Salt from their recruiting class, understood the difficulty of his choice and stood behind his change of heart.

“They were really sad about my decision, but they supported me 100 percent,” Salt said. “They really wanted me to come up there. I loved everything about their program, but I had to make a decision about what was best for me. They respected me for putting family first.”

Florida was dealt another recruiting loss shortly thereafter when five-star power forward Khem Birch (Fitchburg, MA), who enrolled at Pittsburgh this year but decided to transfer and narrowed his list down to UF and UNLV, chose the latter program. Birch had a whirlwind recruitment that lasted just about a week and always appeared to be favor UNLV considering the basketball team’s penchant for recruiting Canadians like himself.

Unfortunately for the Gators, Birch is quite close with five-star PF Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV), who Florida is hot after to round out its 2012 recruiting class. Bennett also has UNLV in his final five along with Kentucky, Washington and Oregon.

The Gators hoped to end the day with a commitment from a player the coaches had put a full-court press on this cycle, four-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, GA). Announcing his decision live on FOX Sports South, Jenkins chose Georgia over Florida, Alabama and Auburn, a surprise because UF felt good about their chances.

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4 BITS: Tebow, Starks, Schottenheimer, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow set a number of football records on Sunday, but he also wound up making headlines in some off-the-field statistics, too. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Denver-Pittsburgh games registered a 25.9 overnight rating for CBS, which slates it as the largest-viewed AFC Wild Card game since 1988. Additionally, the final quarter-hour of the game (8-8:15 p.m.) pulled in a whopping 31.6 overnight rating. Tebow also made history on Twitter, setting a new sports tweets-per-second record with 9,420. CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell points out that Tebow’s tweets-per-second on Sunday shattered the previous sports record, which had the 2011 Women’s World Cup final game at 7,196 tweets/second. Other comparisons Rovell provided were Steve Jobs’s death (6,049 t/s), the Osama Bin Laden raid (5,106 t/s) and last year’s Super Bowl (4,064 t/s).

2 » Another happening from Sunday night’s game, albeit an unfortunate one, is that the injury to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks knee appears to be a bad one. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Starks has an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament that is believed to be a tear. If he did indeed suffer a torn ACL, Starks will begin the 2012 season like he did this year – unemployed – and will have to try and work his way onto a NFL roster as he begins to heal. Starks was a free agent heading into the 2011 season but was signed by the Steelers as the team’s offensive line became decimated with injuries. Center Maurkice Pouncey, who was named to his second Pro Bowl this year and earned his first Associated Press All-Pro honor, missed Sunday’s game with a high-ankle sprain.

3 » Before NFL action began Sunday, a tweet from ESPN insider Adam Schefter got some Gators fans buzzing: “Brian Schottenheimer never withdrew his name from consideration for the Florida OC job.” Schottenheimer, the current offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, was previously thrown around as a name to consider for UF’s opening. However, the New York Daily News reported last week that he had withdrawn his name from consideration and was not a possibility for Florida. At the time there were no reports that the school had even reached out to him as a potential candidate. A former backup quarterback for Danny Wuerffel with the Gators under head coach Steve Spurrier, Schottenheimer has very little college coaching and recruiting experience (1999-2000). He has worked mostly as a NFL coach since 1997 and has been a quarterbacks coach since 2011, holding the role of offensive coordinator for New York since 2006.

4 » Maybe playing time really will do new Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights well. Traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to Memphis on Jan. 4, Speights saw six minutes of action in his second game with his new team. However, the Grizzlies put Speights in for 29 minutes on Sunday and he responded with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. It remains to be seen how Speights will perform the rest of the season, but he said last year that consistent minutes are what he needs to take his game to the next level.

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Loss at Tennessee knocks Florida down in top 25s

The ninth editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Syracuse Orange maintained their spot as the No. 1 team in the country for the fifth week in a row.

The Florida Gators fell to No. 19 in both polls on the heels of a victory at home against UAB and loss on the road at Tennessee. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in the respective rankings.

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)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Syracuse (30), Kentucky (1), North Carolina, Baylor, Ohio State
6-10: Duke, Michigan State, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas
11-15: Georgetown, UNLV, Michigan, Murray State, Louisville
16-20: Connecticut, Virginia, Kansas State, Florida, Mississippi State
21-25: Creighton, San Diego State, Gonzaga, Marquette, Harvard

This Week 1-5: Syracuse (30), Kentucky (1), Duke, North Carolina, Baylor
6-10: Missouri, Ohio State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville
11-15: Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Kansas
16-20: Mississippi State, UNLV, Murray State, Wisconsin, Marquette
21-25: Harvard, Kansas State, Virginia, Creighton, San Diego State

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Syracuse (60), Kentucky (5), North Carolina, Baylor, Ohio State
6-10: Michigan State, Indiana, Duke, Missouri, Kansas
11-15: Georgetown, UNLV, Michigan, Louisville, Murray State
16-20: Virginia, Connecticut, Kansas State, Florida, Mississippi State
21-25: Gonzaga, San Diego State, Creighton, Seton Hall, Marquette

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (60), Kentucky (5), North Carolina, Baylor, Duke
6-10: Ohio State, Missouri, Connecticut, Georgetown, Michigan State
11-15: Louisville, Indiana, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi State
16-20: Michigan, UNLV, Wisconsin, Murray State, Marquette
21-25: Virginia, Harvard, Kansas State, San Diego State, Gonzaga

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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Road woes continue as Vols top Gators 67-56

An 11 a.m. start time did nothing to help the No. 13 Florida Gators (12-4, 0-1 SEC) shake off their season-long struggles on the road as the team opened up Southeastern Conference play with a 67-56 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers (8-7, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Gators fell to 2-8 in their last 10 contests against the Vols in Knoxville, TN and are now 0-4 in true road games this season including two losses in the last 10 days. UF’s 56 points were a season low and the fewest the team has posted since scoring 54 against Kentucky on March 13, 2011.

Florida got out to a sluggish start and Tennessee held even with them the entire way with the two teams trading the lead for the first few minutes of the game.

Ahead 20-17 after a 5-0 run, the Volunteers lost their advantage when the Gators responded with a 7-1 run of their own to go up three; however, UT answered right back with a 7-2 scoring stretch to jump ahead 28-26.

A three-pointer from junior guard Kenny Boynton gave UF a 29-28 advantage, but Tennessee capped the first half with a 5-0 run including a three by G Trae Golden with five seconds remaining to take a 33-29 lead into the break.

The second half started the same way for Florida with the Gators missing shots, turning the ball over and being taken to the hoop on defense. The Vols began incrementally increasing their lead throughout the half and jumped ahead 15 points with an 8-0 run capped by a trey from G Cameron Tatum.

Tennessee maintained that advantage nearly the rest of the half as Florida was unable to hit a field goal for 8:23, missing 11-straight shots. The Volunteers eventually took a game-high 16-point lead with less than two minutes to play, hanging on for an impressive victory over a ranked opponent.

The Gators shot just 35.7 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from downtown while their opponent was better than 50 percent from both locations. Florida outrebounded Tennessee 37-34 but turned the ball over 15 times and gave up 32 points in the paint. UT’s bench also outscored UF’s 25-1 over the course of the game.

Volunteers forward Kenny Hall and a pair of Gators – Boynton and junior F Erik Murphy – all posted 13 points each. Murphy went 5-for-7 from the field for Florida and had a game-high four blocks, while sophomore center Patric Young and Tennessee F Jeronne Maymon each had a game-high seven rebounds.

Gators freshman G Bradley Beal struggled once again with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting (1-for-5 from downtown) with five boards and five turnovers. Senior point guard Erving Walker was just 3-for-8 from the floor with three turnovers and two assists.

UF will look to rebound from another tough road loss with a home game against rival Georgia on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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