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.

IMPROVING ON THE OFFENSIVE GLASS

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.

VIDEO: CHARGE DRILL IN PRACTICE

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

FOUR BITS: Tebow, Hicks, women’s b-ball, Lerner

1 » Early Friday morning, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow sat down with Hannah Storm for another interview, this one mostly about the 2011 season. Though the below video is only a clip of the interview, it will be aired in full on ESPN‘s SportsCenter on Friday. If/when the network makes it available online, OGGOA will update this thread with a video of the complete interview.

2 » Former Florida Gators linebacker Brandon Hicks has agreed to a futures contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2012 season. His former Florida teammate and current Pittsburgh tackle Marcus Gilbert confirmed the signing to OGGOA on Friday via Twitter. An undrafted free agent in 2011, Hicks was signed by the Buffalo Bills in the lockout-shortened offseason but was waived during final cuts and did not make his way onto a NFL roster. He is the second former Gators star to sign a futures contract since the end of the regular season as tight end Cornelius Ingram, who spent time on Denver’s practice squad toward the end of the year, agreed to remain with the Broncos.

3 » Florida women’s basketball (14-8, 4-5 SEC) picked up a big win on Thursday, defeating the LSU Tigers (14-8, 4-5 SEC) 73-64 on the road at the Maravich Assembly Center. It was the Gators’ first victory in Baton Rouge, LA since 1996 and marked a pleasant end to a three-game road stand in which Florida fell just barely to No. 6 Kentucky (57-52) and Arkansas (73-72 in overtime). Senior center Azania Stewart led the way for the Gators with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, and both redshirt senior forward Ndidi Madu and senior guard Lanita Bartley also added 12 points in the winning effort. Florida will look to capitalize on their positive momentum with consecutive home games against Ole Miss and Auburn next week.

4 » Gators senior punter David Lerner has been nominated for the 2012 Rare Disease Champion Award presented by Uplifting Athletes to “a leader in college football, individual or organization, who has realized his or her potential to make a positive and lasting impact on the rare disease community.” Lerner, who learned in the offseason that he had Chron’s disease, was knocked back by the illness but able to overcome it and wound up starting for Florida at the beginning of the season. Also in contention for the honor are Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead, N.C. State’s Wayne Crawford and UCLA’s Luke Gane, all of whom you can read about by clicking here.

TWO BITS: Tim Tebow on ESPN, NBC this week

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been making the rounds in Indianapolis, IN this week and sat down Thursday for a pair of interviews with ESPN and NBC. His interview with Skip Bayless appeared on ESPN2‘s First Take Friday morning and the entire thing can be viewed in the three videos below. He discusses the Super Bowl, some of the highlights of the 2011 season, his religion making him polarizing and whether or not Denver’s brass is giving him the proper support.

Watch the rest of the interview videos after the break!
Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Tim Tebow on ESPN, NBC this week

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.

LB Hearns makes it four 2013 commits for Florida

The Florida Gators doubled up on 2013 linebackers Thursday, receiving a commitment from James Hearns (Tallahassee, FL) just over an hour after it was announced that Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL) pledged to join the Gators.

Another player who took part in Florida’s Junior Day last weekend, Hearns is the second Lincoln High School player to commit to the Gators in as many days. His teammate and three-star wide receiver Raphael Andrades (Tallahassee, FL) was a surprise addition to Florida’s 2012 signing class on Wednesday.

At 6’3” and 230 lbs., Hearns was one of two Lincoln players – the other being WR Reggie Davis (Tallahassee, FL) – to visit the Gators last weekend. Both took a number of tours and met with the coaching staff, which told Hearns they were fond of his athleticism but wanted to look over his film early in the week after he missed most of the 2011 season due to a knee injury.

“He always liked Florida. He always liked 3-4 teams like Florida and Alabama,” former UF receiver and Lincoln’s offensive coordinator Jacquez Green told OGGOA. “When I took him down to Junior Day Saturday, he got a chance to really see [Will] Muschamp, and he sat with Coach [D.J.] Durkin at the game and got a chance to talk to him.

“It was the one-on-ones, the attention he got and the fact that Florida is down and [he and Andrades] feel they can help get Florida back up to where it used to be.”

Like McMillian who also committed Thursday, Hearns has an impressive offer list with Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Tennessee as some of the standout schools.

Read the rest of this story and watch a highlight tape of Hearns after the break.
Continue Reading » LB Hearns makes it four 2013 commits for Florida

LB McMillian becomes Gators’ third 2013 commit

Less than 24 hours after hauling in 17 new recruits on 2012 National Signing Day, the Florida Gators have added a third player to their 2013 recruiting class by securing a verbal commitment Thursday afternoon from linebacker Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), according to InsidetheGators.com‘s Bryan Holt.

McMillian is listed on ESPNU’s recently released “top 100 prospects of 2013” and is considered by the recruiting service to be a four-star player. He was originally planning on announcing his commitment during the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Game but wanted to make his plans official now instead.

Florida did not host 2012 recruits on the final weekend before the dark period but instead brought a number of extremely talented juniors to campus.

McMillian was one of those juniors and has reportedly decided to make his call for the Gators despite carrying a number of other impressive offers from schools like Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and South Carolina.

Read the rest of this story and watch a highlight tape of Hearns after the break.
Continue Reading » LB McMillian becomes Gators’ third 2013 commit

Sunday a dream come true for Spikes and his mom

For a young kid growing up in certain areas of Shelby, NC, dreams of playing college football – let alone someday in the NFL – can seem entirely impossible.

Throw in the fact that his brother was sentenced in 2003 to life in prison without parole on first-degree murder charges stemming from a drug deal gone wrong in 2001 and many expected Brandon Spikes to go down with the ship.

“There was a lot of negative people who said, you won’t do this, you won’t do that because he didn’t do this, he didn’t do that,” Spikes told USA Today in 2008 about his neighborhood growing up. “You won’t ever get a scholarship, you won’t go to Florida and play as well as you did. My whole career has been about proving people wrong.”

He started on that path during his time in Gainesville, FL with the Florida Gators. Spikes went from five-star recruit and the No. 13 prospect in the nation to a player who looked like he might be underwhelming after the Gators’ defense struggled mightily in 2007.

Months after the season ended, Spikes sat down with then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer, shed some tears, and told him he had no choice but to succeed going forward.

“I let him know this is my life. Without this, I don’t know where I would be. Football has been everything. It was my way out; it was my way here,” he said. “I just told him this is what I do. I wake up in the morning and I breathe, and this is the first thing on my mind.”

Spikes became the defense’s leader that season, the parallel to quarterback Tim Tebow and what he did for the Gators’ offense.

His hit on running back Knowshaun Moreno at the start the 2008 Florida-Georgia game is one of the most famous tackles in school history, and it fueled a 49-10 victory that helped propel the Gators to another win in the 2008 SEC Championship over Alabama and eventually to the 2009 BCS Championship.

Spikes promised when leaving for college that he would make his mother proud. His second national title in three years undoubtedly put a smile on her face, but his decision to stay a fourth year and graduate rather than leave early for the NFL likely made that smile grow exponentially wider.

Continue Reading » Sunday a dream come true for Spikes and his mom

FOUR Video BITS: Tebow, Legend, Diggs, Miller

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow was a guest on NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night/Thursday morning and sat down with the host to talk about the Tebowing phenomenon, Fallon’s parody of Tebow and David Bowie – “Tebowie,” and the charitable work he is doing. Tebow was introduced by The Roots playing “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men and concluded his segment by shooting a signed jersey into the crowd with at T-shirt gun.

2 » Speaking of television clips of Tebow, ESPN2‘s First Take has continued to make him a topic of conversation long after Denver’s season ended. This week the show featured singer/songwriter John Legend remixing one of his own tunes to create a song called “Extra-Ordinary Tebow.”

Continue Reading » FOUR Video BITS: Tebow, Legend, Diggs, Miller

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