FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Williams, Blakely, baseball

1 » With speculation surrounding Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey’s ability to play in Super Bowl XLV with a high ankle sprain, one of his teammates has apparently let the cat out of the bag on Pouncey’s status. “We are definitely sad that he won’t be able to be with us in the Super Bowl,” guard Chris Kemoeatu told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “Definitely I feel bad for him. We just have to win it for him. It’s definitely a huge loss for us. We know how big this is for him and him not being able to play is definitely motivating for us to go out there and get that ring for him.” Since first suffering the injury Sunday, Pouncey has steadfastly denied that he will miss the game, saying he knows “how to attack” the injury because he had a similar one during his time with the Florida Gators.

2 » Third and sometimes fourth on his team’s depth chart at the position, former Florida point guard Jason Williams was waived by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. Williams, who averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game, is the least productive he has been in his 12-year NBA career. There are early expectations that he will be picked up by a team in need of a back-up ball handler.

3 » As initially reported by OGGOA on Jan. 17, four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) has officially undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will miss spring practice. An early enrollee already on campus at the University of Florida, he will likely be able to return to the field in the summer.

4 » Baseball America delivered some high praise to the Gators baseball team on Thursday, ranking them No. 1 in their 2011 preseason top 25 poll. The publication notes that Florida returns eight everyday starters (including four first-team freshman All-Americans), features a power trio in the heart of the order, has two speedsters who can swipe bases, plays great defense, is “absurdly deep on the mound,” has the deepest bullpen in college , offers an excellent coaching staff and “has no discernible weakness.”

Noting that a disappointing postseason performance is the crux of the Gators’ motivation for 2011, Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt also published a feature story on the team. “For all they accomplished in 2010, the Gators’ lasting memory of the season would be the hollow feeling of playing two flat, uninspiring games in Omaha and getting ousted by arch-rival Florida State,” he writes. “After going from a regional in 2008 to a super regional in 2009 to the College World Series in 2010, the next step is for Florida to take home its first national championship.” You can read the rest by clicking here.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: spring practice set, Pouncey’s injury

1 » The Florida Gators announced Wednesday that the team will participate in its first of 15 spring practices on March 16 with the remainder coming between then and the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9. The 2011 season begins on Sept. 3 as Florida takes on Florida Atlantic at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game this season but suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game, remains questionable for Super Bowl XLV. He was seen Wednesday utilizing crutches with a hard cast on his lower left leg, indicating that the injury is quite serious and may indeed keep him out of the big game. ESPN medical expert Stephania Bell, asked about Pouncey’s injury, said moderate high ankle sprains are usually given an “estimate of four to six weeks” though players have come back both earlier and later than that time frame depending on the severity of the injury. Bell also noted that Pouncey being only 21 will help him recover a bit faster. “I think when you look into the context of two weeks, it’s the Super Bowl, and Pouncey doesn’t have gross instability or a fracture based on what we know,” she said. “So it will come down to whether the Steelers get the pain down enough and the swelling down enough that Pouncey can have normal motion in the joint and put pressure through the foot.”

3 » Still recovering from an injured thumb, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah sat down with Comcast Sports Net in Chicago, IL for an “up close and personal” seven-minute interview. You can watch it in full below.

4 » Former Gators decathlete Steve Mesler will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on March 27. He will be honored after capturing the gold medal as a bobsledder for team United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in February. “I thought it was amazing,” Mesler said when he learned about his selection. “You don’t think about putting yourself in the Hall of Fame when you’re competing and training. It’s such a surprise to be honored that way. It still humbles me to think that we did something that puts us in that classification.” Mesler joins names already inducted into the hall like Sandy Koufax, (fellow Florida alum) Dara Torres, Red Auerbach (among many others).

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12/25: Parsons turns it on, Walker’s redemption

Just three days after putting together their most complete game of the season, the Florida Gators (16-4, 5-1 SEC) showed the tenacity and gumption it takes to win a nail-biter against a talented opponent by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3 SEC) 104-91 in a double-overtime thriller on the road. Head coach Billy Donovan, who saw his team score only 45 points two games ago at Auburn (the lowest point total during his career at Florida), also watched on as the Gators scored 104 points one week later (the most during his UF career against a Southeastern Conference opponent).

WELCOME TO THE CHANDLER PARSONS SHOW

For a player who barely made an appearance in the stat sheet after the first half, Parsons really turned things around the rest of the game and came up clutch in overtime. He grabbed 11 of his 12 rebounds after halftime, scored 18 points (including nine of his team’s 17 in the second overtime) and ended up notching his third double-double of the season (10th of his career).

“I was really proud of his effort on the boards for us,” Donovan said after the game. Parsons chocked up his team’s ability to come through when it counted to their conditioning. “That’s [strength and conditioning coach] Matt Herring getting us up at 6 a.m., doing suicides,” he said. “It didn’t come easy. There were some plays on both sides. That was a big-time win for us, another overtime win that we needed.”

For Parsons, it all comes down to what awaits his team. “We’re still in first place, but we don’t want to let up,” he said. “We’re going to get some rest and try to build on this going into Mississippi State.”

WALKER GIVES IT AWAY, TAKES IT BACK

Junior point guard Erving Walker’s entire career in the orange and blue, it seems, is a mix of “Why did he do that?” and “How the heck did he do that?” moments. His performance Tuesday night was a perfect example.

With 1:32 remaining and his team up six points, Walker turned the ball over at the top of the key, allowing Georgia to score an easy basket. He missed a poorly shot three-pointer on the next possession and followed that up by failing to connect on the front end of a one-and-one with Florida up four and 36 seconds remaining. Walker got another chance to make it right as he found himself back at the line for a one-and-one with the Gators up one and 21 ticks left on the clock; he made the first, missed the second, and the Bulldogs wound up scoring with a game-tying layup to send the contest into overtime.

Walker remained out of it, mentally, in the first overtime. He missed back-to-back shots and committed a costly off-the-ball foul that resulted in two made free throws. That is when he decided to redeem himself by absolutely draining a trey from well beyond the arc to tie the game at 85 and force a second overtime.

“I knew I had put my team at risk with the missed free throws,” he said after the game. “I wanted to make up for it and give our team another life.” Speaking about his big triple, Walker added, “I was looking for [Trey Thompkins] and saw he was back. I didn’t want him to block it. When the clock said two seconds left, I let it go.”

Having always remained confident in Walker, Donovan believed Florida’s attitude in the second half was fueled by his heroics at the end of the first overtime. “I think Erv’s shot probably energized us a little bit,” he said. He also admits that, going into the first overtime, the Gators were “kind of teetering a bit” after giving up an eight-point lead with less than three minutes to go.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/25: Parsons turns it on, Walker’s redemption

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Gators need two overtimes to cage Bulldogs

Giving up a lead at the end of regulation only to come from behind to force a second period of extra time, the No. 23/24 Florida Gators (16-4, 5-1 SEC) defeated the Georgia Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3 SEC) 104-91 in a double-overtime thriller to claim sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday evening at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA.

Georgia forward Trey Thompkins put-back a missed shot to send the game into overtime, Florida junior point guard Erving Walker hit a dagger three-pointer to force a second overtime, and Gators F Chandler Parsons took over in the final period to complete Florida’s hardest-fought win of the season.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s comprehensive game story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators need two overtimes to cage Bulldogs

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No. 23 Florida Gators at Ga. Bulldogs Gameday

Location: Stegeman Coliseum – Athens, GA [Capacity: 10,523]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

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

No. 23/24 FLORIDA GATORS GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Mark Fox
Record: 15-4 (4-1) Record: 14-4 (3-2)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Georgia -2.5; O/U 135

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida leads the all-time series against Georgia 103-96. The Gators have won 12 out of the last 14 games in the series against the Bulldogs and are 20-7 overall against them under Donovan including 8-5 in Athens. However, Florida has lost its last two contests at Georgia by a combined four points.
» UF has won 10 of its last 12 games with six victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» The Gators are 6-1 in SEC play over the last two seasons with three or fewer days between games (2-0 this season).
» Florida is 4-0 in true road games and currently holds a 6-1 record away from the Stephen C. O’Connell Center this season.
» The Gators are 11-1 when holding an opponent under 60 points this season. They have held back-to-back opponents (Auburn-40, Arkansas-43) under 45 points, the lowest two-game total in SEC play ever under Donovan (previous low 90). UF’s defense has held consecutive SEC opponents under 45 points for the first time since 1947 and for the first time in the shot clock era.
» Florida has out-rebounded 15 of 19 opponents (two of five in SEC competition) this season and are doing so by a +7.1 rebounds per game advantage.
» The Bulldogs best the Gators in three of four major statistical categories nationally. Georgia holds advantages in points per game 121st-155th (71.3-70.1), assists 34th-76th (15.6-14.6) and field goal percentage 56th-71st (.466-.461), while Florida is more efficient off the glass leading in rebounds 55th-71st (38.2-37.4). The Gators rank 16th in RPI (.6343) and 10th in strength of schedule nationally compared to the Bulldogs being 41st (.5967) and 79th, respectively.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 13.7 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (43.9%) and three-point percentage (41.8%). He has single-handedly accounted for 41 of Florida’s 109 treys this season. Walker became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points, accomplishing the feat earlier this year.
» Senior forward Chandler Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (10.0) while leading the Gators with 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Parsons notched a career-high 15 boards on Saturday against Arkansas.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 57.3 percent as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game while being a major presence for Florida.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably UF’s most talented player but had been marred in a slump this year until recently breaking out of it. Boynton is only shooting 36.7 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second on the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game and hits a team-high 77.4 percent of his free throws.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are the Gators primary reserves averaging 17.8 and 16.2 minutes per game, respectively. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads Florida in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.2:1), while Young is the team’s most efficient scorer at 59.1 percent.
» Georgia F Trey Thompkins…who is the main reason his is the best-shooting team in the SEC. Thompkins averages 17.4 points per game, leads his team in blocks (1.6 per game) and pulls down 7.1 rebounds each contest.
» Bulldogs F Travis Leslie…who leads his squad in rebounding with 7.3 boards per game and is second on the team in scoring averaging 14.7 points.

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Gators crawl into Top 25 polls after crazy week

Having won seven of their last eight games including a close victory at Auburn and dominating triumph against Arkansas at home this week, the Florida Gators (15-4, 4-1 SEC) earned their way back into the Top 25 polls for the first time in over a month. Whether or not they can remain ranked in the polls with a difficult Southeastern Conference slate ahead remains to be seen.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 10 (1,048)No. 8 (550)-
2W 77-69 vs. North Florida1-0No. 11 (995)No. 10 (535)-
3L 53-59 at No. 20 Wisconsin
W 86-56 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
2-1No. 16 (619)No. 14 (359)-
4W 67-53 vs. Southern
W 79-59 vs. MTSU
4-1No. 15 (729)No. 13 (395)-
5W 86-60 at Jacksonville
W 67-66 vs. Florida State
6-1No. 15 (758)No. 12 (426)-
6L 64-65 at No. 12 UConn6-2No. 19 (434)No. 19 (258)-
7W 67-61 vs. No. 13 Kansas7-2No. 16 (699)No. 17 (296)-
8W 77-75 vs. Memphis
W 66-49 vs. Fresno State
9-2No. 13 (881)No. 14 (383)-
9W 76-34 vs. Savannah State10-2No. 12 (915)No. 13 (413)-
10W 67-58 vs. Richmond11-2No. 10 (1,052)No. 11 (473)12
11W 74-58 vs. South Carolina
W-OT 84-82 at Arkansas
13-2
(2-0 SEC)
No. 7
(1,205)
No. 7
(573)
8
12W 72-50 vs. Georgia
W 68-61 at Auburn
15-2
(4-0 SEC)
No. 6
(1,303)
No. 6
(639)
8
13W 68-62 at Alabama
W 67-41 vs. Tennessee
17-2
(6-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,436)
No. 4
(694)
5
14W 62-51 at Mississippi State
W 69-36 vs. Texas A&M
19-2
(8-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,482)
No. 4
(720)
3
15W 68-58 vs. Missouri
W 78-69 vs. Alabama
21-2
(10-0 SEC)
No. 3
(1,477)
No. 4
(711)
5
16W 67-58 at Tennessee
W 69-59 at Kentucky
23-2
(12-0 SEC)
No. 2
(1,543)
No. 2
(752)
4
17W 71-66 vs. Auburn
W 75-71 at Ole Miss
25-2
(14-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,606)
No. 1
(791)
3
18W 57-54 at Vanderbilt
W 79-61 vs. LSU
27-2
(16-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,606)
No. 1
(793)
3
19W 72-46 at South Carolina
W 84-65 vs. Kentucky
29-2
(18-0 SEC)
No. 1
(1,610)
No. 1
(793)
2
Post-
season
W 72-49 vs. Missouri
W 56-49 vs. Tennessee
W 61-60 vs. Kentucky
32-2
(18-0 SEC)
(3-0 SECT)
No. 1
(1,610)
No. 1
(794)
1
FinalW 67-55 vs. Albany
W 61-45 vs. Pittsburgh
W 79-68 vs. UCLA
W 62-52 vs. Dayton
L 53-63 vs. UConn
36-3
(18-0 SEC)
(3-0 SECT)
(4-1 NCAAT)
-No. 3
(735)
-

ESPN/USA TODAY
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (28*), Kansas (2*), Syracuse (1*), Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas A&M, Texas, Kentucky, Purdue, Missouri, Louisville, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Washington, Saint Mary’s, Illinois, Georgetown, Kansas State, Arizona
+ Florida received eight voting points, good for 38th overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (31*), Pittsburgh, Duke, San Diego State, Connecticut, Kansas, Villanova, Texas, Brigham Young, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Purdue, Missouri, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Washington, Minnesota, Louisville, Georgetown, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Florida, Saint Mary’s, Utah State
+ Florida received 67 voting points

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (49*), Kansas (6*), Syracuse (8*), Duke (1*), Pittsburgh (1*), San Diego State, Villanova, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Texas, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Missouri, Purdue, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Washington, West Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Georgetown, Illinois, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 42 voting points, good for 35th overall

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (63*), Pittsburgh (1*), Duke (1*), San Diego State, Connecticut, Kansas, Texas, Villanova, Brigham Young, Syracuse, Missouri, Purdue, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Vanderbilt, Illinois, Georgetown, Florida State, Louisville, Florida, Michigan State
+ Florida received 169 voting points

* Numbers represent first-place votes.
 

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Miller, visits, MJD, Chickillo

1 » A victory by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship ensured that, for the ninth consecutive season, a former Florida Gators player will be going to the Super Bowl. Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, who has started every game of the 2010-11 season for Pittsburgh but left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with a high-ankle sprain (left), could also become the 14th former Gators star to win a ring. “I know in my heart that I’m playing in that game,” Pouncey said according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I had the same injury before on my other ankle and I know how to attack it. I know how to approach things.” Should the Steelers be victorious in Super Bowl XLV, it would be the third-straight year a Florida player has won a ring (Pittsburgh-Starks, New Orleans-McCray). Editor’s note: Steelers left tackle Max Starks would also receive a ring, though he has missed most of the season after injuring his neck earlier in the year.

2 » Getting off to a slow start this year after returning from a serious thumb injury he suffered during preseason training camp, Miami Heat guard Mike Miller went nuts on Saturday with two of his team’s best players on the sideline. Playing a season-high 33 minutes, Miller went 12-of-20 (and 6-of-11 from downtown) for 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists and set a franchise record with 22 points in the second quarter alone. He was 5-for-18 before Saturday’s game and had only scored 15 points on the season. “It’s not like I forgot how [to shoot],” Miller said. “It’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it. It was a matter of time.”

3 » UF received official visits from four-star cornerback Marcus Roberson (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and three-star offensive tackle Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, MI) over the weekend, both of whom were hosted by players and took in Florida’s big basketball win over Arkansas with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Roberson, currently committed to Texas Tech (where his uncle Otis Mounds is the CB coach), may be up for grabs depending how he feels his visit went. Fisher, on the other hand, has his recruitment completely open and is strongly looking around. A former Michigan commit, he decided to weigh his options after head coach Rich Rodriguez was fired.

4 » When Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship game on Sunday with a knee injury, many current and former NFL players took to Twitter in order to bash him. An interesting – and to Gators fans “offensive” – tweet came through from the account of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who likened Cutler’s sitting on the sidelines to Florida head coach Urban Meyer resigning. “Hey I think the Urban Meyer rule is effect right now. When the going gets tough… QUIT,” Jones-Drew wrote. “All I’m saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee. I played the whole season on one…” Editor’s note: Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the 2010 season (while Jacksonville was still in playoff contention) with a knee injury.

Extra BIT » Though the new coaching staff, including head coach Will Muschamp made a strong case to get him to switch, four-star defensive end Anthony Chickillo decided to reaffirm his commitment to the Miami Hurricanes over the weekend.

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1/22: Donovan disucsses bounce back victory

The Florida Gators (15-4, 4-1 SEC) put together arguably their most complete game of the season Saturday in a dominating 75-43 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks (12-6, 2-3 SEC) just two days after escaping a potentially resume-killing loss in a close 45-40 win on the road against Auburn. Head coach Billy Donovan and a few players spoke to the media after Saturday night’s game.

STRONG PERFORMANCE FROM START-TO-FINISH

For every disappointing showing that Florida has put forth this season, they have seemed to match it with an impressive performance. The juxtaposition between Thursday’s nail-biting win and Saturday’s rout could not have been greater.

“From start-to-finish, it was a real complete game for us. We’ve had some games where we’ve had some double-digit leads going into the half and we haven’t come out and handled it always the best. Our guys really did [that] in the second half,” Donovan recounted. “There was a limited amount of physical work we did, but there was a lot of mental work. Larry Shyatt, he scouted the game, I thought he really did a terrific job. There’s a fine line, when you have a one-day prep day, you can overload your guys mentally. […] He just tried to simplify it.”

He also spoke about what it took for the Gators to rebound from what was no doubt a depressing performance on the road. “Tonight was a display of their resiliency. I love that about those guys,” Donovan said. “But there’s times where I want to see more fire, more passion, more energy, more excitement, enthusiasm when the game is not going their way. I’d like to see a little bit more of that.”

VICTORY HAS A GREATER LONG-TERM SIGNIFICANCE

Aside from proving that Florida is resilient at times, Saturday’s game also showed that the Gators are able to forget about negatives and move forward as a team. Donovan, still shell-shocked by his team’s performance Thursday, explained it thoroughly.

“It was important because I thought our guys, mentally coming out of the Auburn game, had never ever been through anything like that before. I had never been through anything like that before,” he said. “I mean we shot 27 percent from the field and 19 percent from the three-point line and we scored 45 points in a game against a team that’s 0-4 [in the SEC] at the time and 7-10 in the league. And that’s not any disrespect to Auburn. When you have a game like that, I think it was important how we responded on a one-day turnaround. That’s what I was more concerned about.”

UF handled that turnaround quite well it seems, but Donovan remains concerned whether or not Florida can keep up the momentum once again on such short rest. “The goal is – we play this well tonight – can we come back on Tuesday and play better than we did today? That’s the challenge you try to get across to them,” he said. “[You try] to get them to say, ‘OK, we need to try to get better.’”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 1/22: Donovan disucsses bounce back victory

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