No. 1 Florida completes weekend sweep of FGCU

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (15-1) swept a three-game series for the third time this season, taking down the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-8) over the weekend at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida topped FGCU 4-2 in the series opener thanks to a four-RBI night by junior catcher Mike Zunino, who hit a pair of two-run home runs in the bottom of sixth and eighth to propel the Gators to victory. The Eagles got on the board first with a two-run bomb in the top of the fourth, but junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) lasted into the eighth without giving up another run.

Junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K) had gotten UF out of the top of the eighth before Zunino (2-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) hit his second blast of the game, and junior RHP Austin Maddox tossed the final frame, striking out three of four batters to pick up his fourth save of the season.

Florida had an easier time scoring on Saturday, rallying for four runs in the bottom of the first and defeating Florida Gulf Coast 8-3. Junior LHP Brian Johnson (2-0, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6 K) got the start and picked up the victory as Zunino (2-5, R) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-3, HR, 2 R, 2 BB) each drove in a pair of runs.

The Gators had to claw their way to a victory Sunday with sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford on the hill for his third start of the season. A two-run homer by freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) in the bottom of the fifth put Florida ahead 2-1, but FGCU rallied for a run in the top of the sixth to tie the game and force Crawford (5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 3 K) off the hill.

It took four more outs for the Gators to get back on top in the seventh as freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R) hit his fourth bomb of the season to put Florida ahead for good. Maddox picked up his fifth save by pitching a hitless final frame.

UF will host Florida State in the first of three games scattered throughout the schedule on Tuesday. The Gators will then play an exhibition game against the Ontario Blue Jays on Wednesday before opening up Southeastern Conference play by hosting Vanderbilt in a three-game series from Friday to Sunday.

Gators get No. 7 seed in 2012 NCAA Tournament

No. 21/22 Florida Gators basketball (23-10) has earned a berth to the 2012 NCAA Tournament after completing a hard-fought regular season that included posting a 14-2 record at home and a 4-6 record against RPI top-50 teams including three losses to Kentucky, the team ranked No. 1 overall.

As announced during the NCAA Selection Show, Florida – a No. 7 seed – will face the No. 10-seed Virginia Cavaliers (22-9) of the ACC in Omaha, NE on Friday at 2:10 p.m. (ET). The game will air live on TNT with Marv Albert calling the action, Steve Kerr serving as color commentator and Craig Sager reporting from the sideline.

The Gators, placed in the West Region (Phoenix, AZ), could advance to face No. 2 Missouri (30-4) or No. 15 Norfolk State (25-9) in the third round on Sunday. Florida has never played Mizzou in men’s basketball and is set to face them in football next season for the first time since 1966.

The final editions of the 2011-12 season USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Top 25 Poll and Associated Press Top 25 Poll were released on Sunday and Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (31-2, 18-1 SEC) held on to the No. 1 spot despite losing in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament.

The Gators fell three spots in each poll to No. 22 and No. 25 in the respective rankings after losing for the third time this season to the Wildcats; Florida has now lost six of their last nine games. UF earned second-round victory in the SEC Tournament against Alabama (66-63) on Friday before suffering a tough loss against Kentucky (74-71) on Saturday in semifinal action.

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: Kentucky (30), Syracuse, Missouri (1), Michigan State, North Carolina
6-10: Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Murray State, Baylor
11-15: Marquette, Florida State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgetown
16-20: Saint Mary’s, Indiana, Louisville, Wichita State, Creighton
21-25: Florida, New Mexico, San Diego State, Vanderbilt, UNLV

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri
6-10: Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Marquette, Murray State
11-15: Baylor, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgetown, Indiana
16-20: Wichita State, Florida State, Saint Mary’s, Florida, UNLV
21-25: San Diego State, Creighton, Notre Dame, Temple, Gonzaga

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri, North Carolina, Michigan State
6-10: Kansas, Ohio State, Duke, Baylor, Florida State
11-15: Marquette, Murray State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgetown
16-20: Indiana, Louisville, Wichita State, Creighton, Vanderbilt
21-25: New Mexico, San Diego, UNLV, Saint Mary’s, Florida

Last Week 1-5: Kentucky (63), Syracuse (2), Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri,
6-10: Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Marquette, Michigan
11-15: Murray State, Baylor, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Indiana
16-20: Wichita State, Florida State, San Diego State, Creighton, UNLV
21-25: Temple, Florida, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Iowa State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Announcement footage above courtesy of Gatorvision.tv.

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field captures third-straight NCAA Indoor Championship

No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field made history on Saturday by winning their third-straight national title at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships at Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa, ID.

Florida posted 52 team points for the second-straight year to defeat the remaining top four including Arkansas (47), Arizona (41), Arizona State (31) and LSU (27).

With the victory, UF Mike Holloway became the third head coach in NCAA history to lead his team to at least three-straight men’s track & field titles, joining Arkansas’ John McDonnell and UTEP’s Ted Banks.

Leading the way for the Gators were individual national championship performances by juniors sprinter Jeff Demps and jumper Omar Craddock.

Demps won the 60-meter dash for the third-straight season with a time of 6.56 seconds, 0.04 seconds slower than the 6.52-second time that he achieved in the preliminaries on Friday. Demps’ 6.52-second run was not only a personal best but also a school record and collegiate-leading time. He posted four of the top five collegiate times in 2012 and became the first three-time champion in the event since Pittsburgh’s lee McCray won the 55-meter dash in 1986-88. Demps remains the only Florida athlete to ever win the event.

Craddock captured the triple jump with a personal-best distance of 16.75m/54-11.50, making it four years in a row that an athlete representing the Gators won the event (Christian Taylor, Will Claye).

Senior heptathlete Gray Horn was also in the process of winning an individual national title for Florida when he went down with an injury and was forced to withdraw from the men’s heptathalon. At the time of his withdrawal, Horn was up 18 points on his fellow competitors with two events to go.

Though the indoor season is now over for the Gators, the 2012 outdoor track and field season begins next Saturday with the UCF Black and Gold Challenge on March 17.

3/10: (4) Florida vs. (1) Kentucky post-game notes

The No. 19/22 Florida Gators dropped a 74-71 heart-breaker to the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament. Before Florida can advance to the 2012 NCAA Tournament, head coach Billy Donovan and a handful of players met with the media to discuss the loss.

FLORIDA PUTS FORTH A PRAISEWORTHY EFFORT

In what was a relatively even game offensively (both teams took 60 shots with Florida making two more than Kentucky), the final score was decided mostly by foul shooting. The Wildcats went 15-for-20 from the line while the Gators hit just two shots on their one trip to the charity stripe. Donovan was incensed at the disparity following the contest.

“I was proud of the way our guys competed today. I thought we had a two-minute stretch there where we gave up a few offensive rebounds. We had a couple turnovers that kind of allowed them to regain some momentum and take the lead,” he said. “But I really thought the difference in the game to me was the fact that we got to the free throw line two times and [in] by far the most physical game that we have played in all year. How we only got there two times is beyond me.

“That was a huge factor for us to be that close as we were with such a huge discrepancy. But we shot the ball well. I thought we moved the ball, made the extra pass. But I thought the offensive rebounding late in the second half and a few of our turnovers hurt us. But I give our guys credit. They battled and fought to get themselves back into the game to give themselves a chance.”

Donovan continued by discussing all of the things Florida was able to move past in the game – UK owning the offensive boards, UF turning the ball over at inopportune times – but remained fixated on the disparity from the free throw line.

“What we couldn’t overcome was 20 free throws to two,” he said. “And then what we couldn’t overcome was the rebounding margin, in particular the offensive rebounding. […] But when you see from our bench in the second half, Patric Young getting pushed in the back constantly, constantly, constantly, and there’s just no whistle. I mean, to me, it’s really hard to overcome 20 free throws to two.

“There’s no way in the game like that. I could see if Kentucky was playing two-three zone and didn’t touch anybody…but we were fouling them. I’m not saying that we didn’t foul them. There [were] times we fouled them. I thought Murphy, when [Terrence] Jones drove, we fouled him. I’m not saying that. But I mean, we got to the free throw line two times? I mean, we just had a hard time overcoming that. But I thought our guys battled as physically as best they could up front.”

Asked if he saw fouls that were not called, Donovan nodded his head in affirmation.

“Yeah. Patric Young’s going up on offensive rebound and he’s being pushed in the back. And we’re doing the same thing to them,” he said. “I’m not saying that we’re not doing it. We’re doing the same thing. It’s just I’ll deal with the office on it. It’s probably the best way to put it. And I’ll have a lot to say, too. And when I say that, it had nothing to do with us losing the game, so I don’t want to take anything away from Kentucky. They deserve the game. They won the game.”

Read the second half of the post-game news and notes…after the break!
Continue Reading » 3/10: (4) Florida vs. (1) Kentucky post-game notes

No. 1 Kentucky slides past No. 19 Florida 74-71, eliminates Gators from SEC Tournament

Playing in their second nail-biter in as many days, the No. 19/22 Florida Gators (23-10, 11-7 SEC) showed passion and tenacity despite being outlasted by the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (32-1, 18-0 SEC) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky edged past Florida 74-71 at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA, defeating their long-time rivals thrice in one season for the first time since 2003-04.

The Gators were led by sterling efforts from junior forward Erik Murphy and freshman guard Bradley Beal on both ends of the court. Murphy scored a career-high and game-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting while going 4-for-4 from long range and grabbing three rebounds. Beal added 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) with team-highs of eight boards and five assists. The duo combined to score 62 percent of UF’s points in the game.

The Wildcats had all five starters score in double figures. G Doron Lamb scored a team-high 16 points while three other players – F Anthony Davis, F Terrence Jones and G Marquis Teague – each added 15. Davis posted a double-double by adding 12 rebounds (five offensive) to go along with two blocks.

The contest started with a frantic pace as both teams scored early and often. Kentucky found success in the paint while Florida hit four of their first seven attempts from long range. The Gators used a 9-2 run including a blockbuster dunk by sophomore guard Casey Prather to take an early eight-point advantage, extending that lead to 10 points with 8:47 left in the half after Beal scored five-straight.

The Wildcats responded with a 9-2 run of their own to cut their deficit down to three, but UF found themselves back up seven on UK with under five minutes to play. However, Florida failed to make a field goal the final 4:24 of the half, and Kentucky concluded the first 20 minutes on an 8-0 run to take a 40-39 lead at the break, their first of the game.

The Gators maintained their intensity coming out of the locker rooms, taking a 54-49 lead as Beal and Murphy combined to score Florida’s first 12 points of the second half. The Wildcats matched their opponents shot for shot, and Kentucky used a 16-2 scoring stretch to take a 64-55 lead with seven minutes to play.

UF allowed UK to get back in the game by going scoreless for 6:32. In that span, the Gators coughed up four turnovers, committed six fouls and grabbed just two rebounds. However, Florida found a way to get back in the game as Murphy scored seven-straight points to reduce his team’s deficit to two with 2:42 remaining.

Both teams traded blows the rest of the way with the Wildcats maintaining a two-point advantage with 14.5 seconds left on the clock. Down four after two free throws, Gators junior G Kenny Boynton missed a contested three-pointer, allowing Kentucky to hang on for the hard-fought victory.

UK outrebounded UF 36-22 (15-6 offensive) and used those boards to take an equal number of attempts from the field as their opponent (60). The difference in the game for the Wildcats came from the free throw line. Kentucky made 15-of-20 tries while Florida was just 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.

While Beal and Murphy flourished, the Gators’ veteran backcourt faltered. Boynton and senior point guard Erving Walker combined to go 4-of-19 from the field (2-of-9 from three) with nine assists. Sophomore center Patric Young was Florida’s only other consistent scorer, posting 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting with five boards (three offensive).

The Gators, already assured of a berth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, will now wait until Sunday to find out where they will be seeded in the event. Projections have Florida falling in as a No. 5 seed and playing their first game in Nashville, TN.

Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

2012 SEC Tournament: (4) Florida vs. (1) Kentucky

Location: New Orleans Arena [Capacity: 18,000]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ABC/ABCHD
SiriusXM: 220/199
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(19) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 23-9 (11-6) Record: 31-1 (17-0)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +9.5; O/U TBD

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 92-33, and the Gators are just 13-22 against the Wildcats since Donovan took over the team.
» Florida is 0-9 against Kentucky all-time when UK is ranked No. 1 in the country.
» UF has not lost thrice in a single season to their long-time rival since 2003-04.
» Donovan is the longest-tenured head coach in the SEC (16 years) and has five former assistants currently serving as head coaches across the country.
» Calipari is one of two coaches (Frank McGuire) to lead three different schools to No. 1 rankings; he has accomplished that feat in five total seasons.
» The Wildcats have a 23-game winning streak including a number of blowout victories.
» Florida is 36-43 all-time in 47 SEC Tournament appearances but boasts a 21-12 record since Donovan took over the program. The Gators have won three SEC Tournaments (2005-07) and finished as the runner-up five times.
» All five of the UF’s normal starters are averaging 10.0 points per game or more.
» Florida has made 10+ three-pointers in 20 of 32 games, a season-high mark under Donovan. UF has also made more treys this season (317) than any other in team history.
» Three Gators shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
» Florida has made a three in 683 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» UF led the SEC this season in assists (14.9), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and free throw percentage (.764) in conference play.
» The Gators are 18-1 (loss to Kentucky) this year when posting a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and are just 5-8 when the margin is even or negative.
» Florida is 288-37 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points and 238-38 since 1998-99 when recording 15 or more assists in a game.
» The Gators have won 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season. That mark is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally
» Kentucky has more wins (2,083) than any other NCAA team – ever.
» The Wildcats have five players averaging double figures.
» UK is 74-1 under Calipari when holding an opponent to 67 points or fewer.
» Florida is ranked No. 1 in three-pointers (9.9 per game) nationally as of March 8. The Gators are also ranked No. 1 in the SEC in assists (14.9 per game), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), free-throw shooting (.764) and No. 2 in scoring offense (76.8 points).
» Kentucky is ranked No. 1 in scoring margin (19.2 points per game), field goal percentage defense (.365), blocked shots (9.0 per game) and No.9 in rebounding margin (7.4 per game) nationally as of March 8. The Wildcats are also ranked No. 1 in the SEC in scoring offense (77.7 points), field goal percentage (.490), rebounding (39.1 per game) and No. 2 in free-throw percentage (.723).

GAME NOTES

» UK is shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 51.2 percent from beyond the arc in two victories over UF this season.
» The Wildcats have held the Gators to 36.4 percent shooting (24.5 percent from three), nearly 10 percent below their season-long averages in both categories.
» Florida senior point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Bradley Beal have struggled against Kentucky in the two match-ups. Walker is a combined 3-for-18 from the field in the two contests, while Beal is just 6-of-25 from the floor.
» The one player doing well for the Gators against the Wildcats is sophomore center Patric Young. He’s combined to go 15-for-25 in the two games for a total of 33 points including 21 in Gainesville, FL.
» Kentucky’s Anthony Davis – recently named the SEC Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year – has had his way with Florida when the two teams have squared off. Davis has gone 17-of-26 with 38 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks in the two games.
» The Gators and Wildcats are squaring off in the semifinals after both being tested mightily in second-round action. Florida defeated Alabama 66-63 just hours after Kentucky beat LSU 60-51 in the early afternoon game.

FOUR BITS: baseball, tennis, Young, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball improved to 13-1 this season by defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-5) Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series. FGCU right-hander Ricky Knapp held Florida in check through five innings, giving the Eagles a 2-0 cushion thanks to a two-run homer by catcher Andrew Valencia in the top of the fourth inning. Junior RHP Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) got the start for the Gators and held on just long enough ensure he did not suffer a loss as junior C Mike Zunino knotted the game with a two-run bomb of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Zunino doubled up with another two-run homer in the eighth, knocking in all four of Florida’s runs on the evening and earning a win for junior left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K). Junior closer Austin Maddox grabbed his fourth save of the season, striking out three of four batters in the final frame.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (9-1, 3-0 SEC) won the team’s 100th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Friday night, defeateing the No. 22 Vanderbilt Commodores (10-5, 2-1 SEC) 6-1. Florida, which holds the longest active home winning streak for a NCAA Division I women’s sports program, has not fallen on their home court since 2004. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather each won their matches to earn the doubles point for the Gators. Florida also won five of six singles matches with No. 1 Wil, No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree, No. 39 Oyen and junior Caroline Hitimana pulling out victories while No. 49 sophomore Alex Cercone fell in a match that lasted over two hours. No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (9-4, 2-1 SEC) also beat the Commodores (5-7, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 on the road in Nashville, TN.

3 » Florida sophomore center Patric Young said after Friday’s game against Alabama that he will return for his junior season in orange and blue, according to a conversation he had with Matt Watts, the sports editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. Young, however, told Watts that he was not sure what freshman guard Bradley Beal planned to do about his future. Beal is currently projected by many analysts as a potential top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft even though his shooting numbers have been suspect for the Gators this season.

4 » No. 3 Gators softball (21-2, 2-1 SEC) dropped their second game of the season on Friday, falling 1-0 to the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (15-3, 1-0 SEC) due to a defensive miscue in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1, 6.2 IP, 5 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K) was tagged for her first loss of the season as Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe outdueled her, only allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 15 Florida batters. The Gators will look for revenge against the Lady Vols and hope to win the series with back-to-back victories on Saturday on Sunday.

3/9: (4) Florida vs. (5) Alabama post-game notes

The No. 19/22 Florida Gators squeaked out a 66-63 victory against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday in the second round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament. Before Florida can advance to take on the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. on ABC, head coach Billy Donovan and a handful of players met with the media to discuss the hard-earned win.

FLORIDA PUTS FORTH A PRAISEWORTHY EFFORT

After being admonished by Donovan for the way they played in Athens, GA four games ago, Florida received praise from their head coach on Friday for executing well for the third-straight game. He was especially pleased with the way the team practiced during the week but did offer one criticism of the Gators’ game.

“This time of year, you got to find ways to advance and move on and we did,” he said. “I thought we had some opportunities both in the first half and the second half to really extend our lead and we weren’t able to do that. We got it up by 12, and I thought our defense hurt us in terms of let ting them get back into the game and tie it.”

Florida had multiple six-point leads and went up a game-high 12 points mid-way through the second half but allowed Alabama to tie it up. Though the Gators shot poorly (38.5 percent from the field) in the contest, Donovan blamed UF’s defense for allowing UA to stop their scoring stretch and tie things up.

“The problem was on the defensive end of the floor. We would get a stop and we wouldn’t come down with the ball, wouldn’t come down with the rebound,” he said. “They came down with it, and it gave them an extra possession in the game. And they didn’t have a lot of offensive rebounds, but I think they had some timely possessions, where they got the ball back. That kind of shut down our run.”

Donovan noted that Florida hitting 10 threes – even though the Gators were not exceptionally proficient from beyond the arc – was easily the difference in the game, calling treys “the greatest equalizer in college basketball.” He continued, “You can sometimes overcome a tough defensive night if you make enough threes and the other team doesn’t, and I think that’s what happened today.”

Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant, formerly an assistant under Donovan, took the exact same stance on the outcome of the contest.

“You look at it, probably the difference in the game was the 3-point line,” he said. “Florida was able to make 10 threes. We knew coming into the game that that would be key. But they had some guys that stepped up, made some contested ones, very difficult from a defensive standpoint to be able to contain them. […] Florida did a good job attacking the paint and just finding open guys and making the extra pass, and that’s what their team do. Erv[ing Walker], he got going and started looking for his teammates and opened things up. They just played to their identity.”

BEAL AND MURPHY LEAD THE WAY FOR THE GATORS

Though he injured his ankle against Kentucky on Sunday, freshman guard Bradley Beal was 100 percent healthy for Friday’s game. Donovan said that he sat out practice on Monday and Tuesday but returned to practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday and was perfectly fine for the contest.

“It didn’t hurt at all,” Beal said after the game. I was 100 percent [Friday]. It really didn’t bother me. I should be good to go [against Kentucky]. I’m fine.”

Beal notched team-highs in points (16), rebounds (seven) and assists (five) but struggled mightily with his scoring in the second half. He hit 3-of-4 threes in the first half but finished the game 3-for-11 from the field, scoring nearly half of his points from the free throw line, where he went 7-of-8.

That is probably part of the reason why he credits Florida’s defense for the win.

“We had to bear down and play defense, because like coach always tells us, he says every night we’re not going to make a lot of shots like we usually do. So this has kind of been a trend for us these last couple games of not making shots, so we really had to bear down on defense and guard guys,” he said.

Junior forward Erik Murphy, who was an efficient 5-of-11 from the field for 15 points, said he is proud of how much confidence the Gators played with on Friday.

“We got the win today. I think we always play with confidence, and I don’t think that’s a problem for us,” he said. “If we continue to defend and make shots, I think we can beat anybody. We just got to play and stay together.”

Beal concurred. “I believe our confidence is a big thing for our team,” he added. “We don’t ever lose confidence in ourselves. We always encourage each other to keep shooting the ball. And even though the shots don’t fall, there’s other things in the game that we can do to impact and try to get the win.”

Donovan pointed out one of those very things and noted that Murphy in particular has improved greatly in that area.

“The one thing our guys are starting to figure out is when teams switch and do a lot of different stuff, we got to find a way to take advantage of them,” he said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of that today here with [Murphy].”

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