Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

The season may have just begun for No. 5/5 Florida Gators softball, but the ladies did not waste time getting off to a fast 5-0 start at the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in over the weekend. Florida defeated Marshall, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Island, North Carolina State and USF by a combined 53-3 score; the Gators shut out three of their five opponents and scored 17 runs in the first four innings of their season-opener.

The highlight of the weekend for softball came Saturday when senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher tossed the second perfect game of her career to send Florida to a 9-0 shutout victory over N.C. State. Brombacher needed only 67 pitches to do the deed; she struck out six in her five innings of work. Ending up 3-0 at the tournament’s conclusion, Brombacher struck out 19 in 14 innings of work, did not give up a single earned run and only allowed four hits in her final game of the weekend against USF.

Softball may have won five games in three days, but a veteran diver did her best to earn all of the weekend’s accolades for herself.

Not to be overshadowed was the Gators women’s diving team, led by senior Monica Dodson, who broke two Southeastern Conference records and won two gold medals in the diving portion of the 2011 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Dodson, a three-time All-American, won the three-meter event (six dives) with a score of 373.85 on Friday; she followed that up with a victory in the platform event (five dives) with a score of 325.20 at the final day of competition on Sunday. For her efforts and achievements this season, Dodson was named the 2011 SEC Women’s Diver of the Year. Florida diving coach Donnie Craine was honored after the event with his second-straight SEC Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award, an honor that puts him second all-time in conference history.

Check out the other UF sports that had a successful weekend…after the break!
Continue Reading » Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

2/12: Donovan impressed by team’s make-up

No. 17/19 Florida Gators (20-5, 9-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan had plenty to say after his team squeaked out a 61-60 win against the Tennessee Volunteers (15-10, 5-5 SEC) to sweep the season series against their rival for the first time since 2002. That is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability after Saturday’s game.

WALKER’s HEROICS NOT A SURPRISE

Junior point guard Erving Walker often ends up with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. It is not necessarily because it is his job to facilitate (he does not lead the team in assists, senior forward Chandler Parsons does) or because he has the best shooting percentage (that honor belongs to redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin) but more so due to the fact that there is no one on the team who wants and needs to make a clutch shot more than Walker.

“He’s a competitor. He’s a tough kid. I’ve coached guys that love to take the last shot because they don’t want to shy away from it. Erving is a guy that wants it, and he wants it and also there’s a devastation when he doesn’t [make it],” Donovan said. “Losing to Erving Walker is very, very painful as a player. He’s got that drive that winning is very important to him.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that…being his size his whole entire life… He can’t win the dunk contest, and he can’t do all these other things. The only way he’s able to earn respect is through winning. He’s learned at a young age, being a small point guard, the only way I get any level of recognition or any credit is if my team wins. […] For Erving Walker, he’s a winner. He’s a guy that is willing to step up and do that.”

GATORS TAKING THINGS TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL

It is easy to tell, from listening to Donovan, that he has a special kind of passion or the team as it is currently assembled. After Florida’s hard-fought win, he mentioned on multiple occasions how impressed he was with the team’s guts and ability to stick together and pull things out in the end.

“There’s some unbelievable qualities that this team has; this team’s a fighting team, it’s a resilient team, it’s a team that works really hard,” he said.

“I love coaching these guys. I really do because there’s a fighting mentality in them. They have a fighting spirit. Even when things aren’t going well, they never quit on me. They never, ever quit on each other. They battle; they fight. They’re resilient. They don’t always do it pretty; they don’t always play perfect. That, to me, is an incredible quality. Maybe as a coach, with these guys, I want it all. And maybe I’m not going to get it all. I don’t want the one thing that they got to get better at as a team to ever end their season a little bit earlier than it needs to be ended.

“We have good chemistry. They’re unselfish. They’re good kids. They work hard. When they get down, they battle. I really respect that in them. Me as a coach, you get one opportunity to be with these guys, I want them to be as good as they can be.

“The last couple years it’s just been holding on, maybe we can get to the tournament. Last year we got in. This team is dealing with stuff that they never, ever had to deal with before in terms of understanding what it takes to be a real winner and compete at a very high level. Really, in a lot of ways, we’re scratching a different surface. Now we’re in first place. This is a different place these guys have never been. They have to understand what comes with it, and they don’t right now. As much as I’ve tried to explain it, they don’t quite get it yet. I’m hopeful that this experience will help them get better.”

LEAVING PARSONS IN; UPDATING HIS INJURY STATUS

While discussing Parsons’s performance Saturday, Donovan noted that he suffered a deep thigh bruise early in the first half and (obviously) “just wasn’t himself” from that point forward. With UF not playing a game until next Sunday (at LSU, 1 p.m., ESPN), he is hopeful that Parsons will be able to play even though he probably will not be practicing until Thursday at the absolute earliest.

Asked why he left Parsons in the game and played him for so many minutes even though he was limited, Donovan noted that it was all about spreading out the defense.

“Just attention,” he said. “He’s an attention-getting guy, because when the ball’s in his hands he can score, he can shoot it, and he can make plays off the dribble. There’s a level of focus that you have to give to him. He was really hurt, and I felt terrible. The last two or three weeks he has played at a very, very high level.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/12: Donovan impressed by team’s make-up

Walker’s layup propels No. 17 Gators over Vols

Down six at halftime, the No. 17/19 Florida Gators (20-5, 9-2 SEC) rallied late in the second half and utilized a go-ahead layup from junior point guard Erving Walker with 14 seconds remaining to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers (15-10, 5-5 SEC) 61-60 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. With the victory, Florida swept Tennessee in the season series for the first time since 2002 and achieved their 12th victory in their last 14 games.

Walker led the Gators with a team-high 16 points, most of it coming from the charity stripe; he made nine of 10 free throws, the same number attempted by the entire Volunteers team over the course of the game.

Injuring his hip early in the first half, Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons had trouble finding his groove the entire evening. UF appeared to lack athleticism with him being limited, a factor that allowed UT to use a 15-4 run to propel themselves to a 28-21 lead with 5:54 remaining in the first half. The Gators fought back to end the half down six after Vols guard Scotty Hopson made a three-pointer with 14 seconds remaining.

Down 45-38, Florida used a 10-2 run to retake the lead 49-47 with 7:40 remaining in the game. Walker hit a three-pointer, and Parsons added his first field goal (also a trey) with 9:43 left in the second half. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin followed with a hook shot; he stole the ball on the next possession and dunked it to score four-straight points before Walker added a free throw to cap the run.

The Gators didn’t hold the advantage for long, allowing the Volunteers to complete a 6-0 run to retake the lead 53-49 with 6:10 to go. Florida responded in kind, using a 10-3 run to go up 59-56 with 2:16 remaining.

From there, a jumper by C Brian Williams and a layup by G Cameron Tatum once again gave Tennessee the lead, 60-59, with 47 seconds left. Senior F Alex Tyus was sent to the line for two shots but failed to connect on either attempt.

After Tatum missed the front end of a one-and-one with 26 seconds left on the clock, Walker took matters into his own hands. He drove the lane and hit the Gators’ go-ahead layup with 14 seconds remaining.

UT G Melvin Goins missed a three-pointer with two seconds on the clock, which allowed UF to escape with a one-point victory and the season sweep.

Though Walker’s heroics stole the show, he was supported by Macklin and sophomore G Kenny Boynton, each of whom scored 12 points. Tyus added a double-double (his second of the season) with 10 points and 11 boards.

Hopson led Tennessee with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting; he was perfect from downtown (3-for-3) and added five rebounds and four assists. However, Hopson also turned the ball over a game-high six times and was shaky from the free throw line.

With the victory, Florida has won 15 of their last 18 games with 11 wins agianst RPI top 100 teams. The Gators improved to 12-3 at home this season (5-1 in SEC play) and are now 17-1 when holding opponents under 70 points.

UF has eight days to recover before travelling to LSU on Sunday, Feb. 20. The game will air live on ESPN at 1 p.m.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

No. 17 Florida vs. Tennessee Gameday Preview

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 6:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
First Half Live Updates: @OnlyGators
Second Half Periodic Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 17 FLORIDA GATORS TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
Record: 19-5 (8-2) Record: 15-9 (5-4)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -5.5; O/U 133

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Tennessee leads the all-time series against Florida 69-50 and has won 10 out of the last 14 in the series; however, the Gators have defeated the Volunteers in the teams’ last two meetings including an 81-75 overtime victory on Jan. 12.
» Donovan is now 14-16 all-time against UT and 9-5 when facing them in the O’Dome. Conversely, Pearl is 8-3 all-time against UF and 3-2 in the House of Horrors.
» Florida has won 14 of their last 17 games with 10 victories against RPI top 100 teams. The Gators are 11-3 at home this season, which includes a 4-1 record in SEC play.
» UF is 5-1 against the SEC East this season after finishing 3-7 in the division last year.
» The Gators earned back-to-back victories against ranked opponents for the first time since 2007 after defeating then-No. 24 Vanderbilt and then-No. 11 Kentucky last week.
» Florida improved to 16-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season after limiting South Carolina to 60 points on Wednesday.
» UF is 11-0 when forcing more turnovers than their opponents.
» The Gators are 8-1 this year when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10 or more shots from the field. Parsons has registered three consecutive double-doubles.
» Donovan won his 350th game in the orange and blue on Wednesday.
» Florida enters Saturday’s game with 19 wins, just one shy of reaching 20 wins for the 13th consecutive season. The Gators hold the longest active streak in the SEC.
» Florida and Tennessee best each other in a pair of the four major statistical categories. The Gators hold advantages in assists per game 14.1-13.8 (101st-125th) and field goal percentage .457-.434 (88th-188th), while the Volunteers score more points per game 72.0-71.4 (103rd-114th) and grab more rebounds 39.2-38.5 (22nd-33rd). UF ranks 13th in RPI (.6375) and sixth in strength of schedule nationally compared to their opponent being 23rd (.6120) and 1st, respectively.

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida and Tennessee will square off for the second time this season; the Gators defeated the Volunteers in a 81-75 overtime thriller in Knoxville, TN on Jan. 12. In the contest, Florida saw all five starters score in double figures and the team held off numerous rallies by Tennessee to eventually prevail.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (11.1) while leading the Gators with 7.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (765), No. 3 in points (1,311) and No. 4 in assists (292) and steals (118). He has notched three-straight double-doubles and now has six this season alone.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.7 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.427) and three-point percentage (.389). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (60) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 58.4 percent from the floor this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 35.8 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.0 points per game and makes a team-high 83.3 percent of his free throws.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat last Tuesday against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5:1), while Young averages 3.4 points and 3.3 boards off the bench.
» Tennessee G Scotty Hopson…who leads his team in scoring with 16.2 points per game and shoots a team-best 38.1 percent from downtown. Hopson has had four 20-point games this season with, with one coming in his last game against Florida.
» Volunteers F Tobias Harris…who averages 14.6 points while grabbing 7.5 boards each game. Harris, along with Hopson, averages a team-high 28.6 minutes per contest.

TWO BITS: Muschamp, Meyer discuss new gigs

1 » Hired as the Florida Gators new head coach as the team was preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl, Will Muschamp was immediately thrown into the fire. He continues to be busy day-in and day-out, from morning to night, figuring out what schemes he will run, who he will be looking at as starters and who his staff will concentrate on recruiting in 2012. Muschamp spoke with a handful of writers on Friday and relayed his high level of excitement about the upcoming season, his first as a head coach. He also told them that he plans to keep the traditions former head coach Urban Meyer added to the program – singing the fight song and alma mater after victories, the Gator Walk, etc. – while making sure to participate in multiple Gator Club speaking engagements. “I’m going to do as many as I can,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I think it’s important to get out and meet the people who fill the stadium.”

Muschamp even went into a bit of detail about the type of head coach he will be. “As a leader or in a leadership role, you have to be yourself,” he said. “I’m not a CEO. That’s not my M.O. I’m going to be involved with the players. I’ve always envisioned myself in that [head coaching] chair, but when you get in it, it’s different. Still, I enjoy scheming. I like drawing up Xs and Os. As a head coach, you can get pulled away from that job. That’s not going to happen.”

2 » Meyer was a guest on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis, IN and discussed a number of topics about his future now that he is no longer coaching. You can read the entire transcript here or listen to it below, but we have also included a few choice quotes:

Urban Meyer on 1070 the Fan

On a feature he may do with ESPN: “The next thing is going to be the draft and spring practice, and then we are talking about doing a series before the season ‘Training Camp’ like a coaching one-on-one where you break down offense, defense, kicking game and I really look forward to doing that.”

On if he will ever coach again: “I don’t know. I don’t know that but everybody keeps asking me that. I was watching that Super Bowl and sitting there, if you could just do the part of coaching that is allowed and not have to worry about all of that nonsense that has really developed in the college game, that is what I am familiar with. It is out of control with that stuff right now and we have got to get that back on track. 25 years ago, and I am sure you know, if you had to deal with some of the stuff you are dealing with the off-the-field, the agent issues, the violation issues and all the garbage that is out there right now I certainly would not have gotten into coaching. Hopefully with the powers that be and all the right people, I know one thing the NFL Commissioner has got a great outlook the way he is attacking the NFL right now and trying to bring respect and order, and I just love the way he is approaching it. If college football gets that we will have a chance to get back to that great game we all love.”

Photo Credit: GatorVision capture

FOUR BITS: Howard, Horford, Beal, Moses

1 » Quarterback Tim Tebow and head coach Urban Meyer may no longer be with the Florida Gators or speaking with high school coaches daily, but they both went the extra mile to throw their support behind one recently. Former Nease High School head coach Craig Howard, who is perhaps most famous for coaching Tebow before he attended Florida, was hired for the same role by the Southern Oregon Raiders this week. “Urban Meyer helped me get the job, and Tim Tebow did, too,” Howard told The Florida Times-Union. “I really appreciate their support. You really find out who your friends are in situations like this. There were around 130 applicants for the job.”

2 » Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford made a gutsy play to win his team a game about a week ago. Unfortunately for the two-time NBA All-Star, he has missed every contest since with an injured back. “It’s not really getting any better,” Horford told the media when asked how his sore back was feeling. Though there is no structural damage to the area, the fact that he has missed a full week of action may put his ability to play in the All-Star Game on Feb. 20 in Los Angeles, CA in jeopardy.

3 » Named a 2011 McDonald’s All-American on Thursday, Gators five-star guard signee Brad Beal (and his Chaminadale Prep High School team) will be playing live on ESPNU on Saturday at 5 p.m. Averaging 32.4 points per game for his undefeated squad, Beal is the third-straight McDonald’s All-American recruited by head coach Billy Donovan and will be the fourth player with such a distinction on the team for the 2011-12 season (G Kenny Boynton, center Patric Young, transfer G Mike Rosario).

4 » American Cheerleader Magazine is currently holding voting for their 2010 Cheerleader of the Year, and none other than the University of Florida’s Tarin Moses, 19, is one of six nominees for the title. Featured on the cover of the August 2010 issue of the magazine, Moses hopes to bring home the honor. “Cheerleading has made me the person I am today; it has the power to mold a person into an amazing role model,” she told the magazine. “It would make me the happiest person in the world to give other cheerleaders the inspiration to follow their dreams.” You can read Moses’ bio and vote for her by clicking here.

2/10: Gators avoid a letdown, praise Parsons

No. 17/19 Florida Gators (19-5, 8-2 SEC) head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability Thursday.

AVOIDING A LETDOWN AT SOUTH CAROLINA

On Monday, OGGOA noted that all but one of the Gators’ losses this season have come after a hard-fought and/or impressive victory. Florida fell to Central Florida after beating Florida State 55-51 on the road, lost to Jacksonville in overtime after defeating then-No. 6 Kansas State in South Florida, dropped a tough one to the South Carolina Gamecocks following a 81-75 overtime win at Tennessee, and lost to Mississippi State after taking down Georgia 104-91 in two overtimes. Coming off two difficult home games against top 25 opponents, UF was successful in not repeating that trend Wednesday.

“They really came into our place and outplayed us [on Jan. 15],” Donovan said. “Besides having a week of playing against Vanderbilt and also playing against Kentucky, we were also going to play against a team that beat us. Our guys had a respect level going into Columbia knowing that this team beat us on our home court, knowing it was going to be a battle and a challenge at their place.”

PARSONS TURNING THINGS AROUND

What senior forward Chandler Parsons has accomplished on the court over the last few weeks is undeniable. Marred in a shooting slump and seemingly lacking confidence early in the season, Parsons has begun to ignore outside influences and is instead concentrating on doing one thing – winning basketball games.

“The biggest thing with him is playing without intention. When you go into a game with intentions to do anything, or you have intentions of how the game is going to go or what you’re trying to do in the game, that’s generally going to lead to a lot of bad things,” Donovan said. “Chandler’s in a place right now mentally that he’s playing, he’s making good decisions, he’s making good passes, he’s rebounding the basketball, he’s shooting at the right time, he’s passing at the right time and he’s really playing with no intention. The only intention he’s playing with is to make the next best play. He’s grown in that area.

“It’s not necessarily the scoring, it’s not necessarily the rebounding or the assists, it’s just him playing the right way. When you’re a good player in today’s day and age, there’s a maturity you have to have to deal with the expectations – both internal expectations, outside expectations, expectations to get to the next level. If you’re not mature enough mentally, and you let that stuff creep in, it can really have an ill effect on how you play.”

Teammates redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin and junior point guard Erving Walker are notably impressed with how Parsons has been playing. “He realizes how much he can do for this team,” Macklin said. “He’s one of the more versatile players I’ve ever played with in my life. He’s just taking his time, playing, and helping us out a lot.” Walker agrees. “That’s what we’ve expected from him the whole time. Being 6’10” and so versatile, he can shoot, pass and rebound,” he said. “He’s been playing with a lot of confidence, and we just want him to keep it up.”

For his part, Parsons realizes he was forcing things earlier in the season. “[I was] trying to get involved and stuff like that. I’ve realized – just let the game come to me,” he said. “I’m going to take what the defense gives me but at the same time be very aggressive, not just try and score [but also] try to get my teammates open shots, try to get our big guys the ball down low and try to rebound, defend.” Now he’s doing his best to handle the success he’s found. “I don’t really feel pressure. When you’re playing, you can’t put expectations on yourself or your team, you just got to keep playing and keep trying to get better,” he said. “It really is irrelevant what other people say; you just have to keep playing your game.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 2/10: Gators avoid a letdown, praise Parsons

FOUR BITS: Donovan, Tebow, Brissett, Drayton

1 » Head basketball coach Billy Donovan, who has won two NCAA National Championships (in three title game appearances), captured multiple Southeastern Conference Championships and led the Florida Gators to unprecedented heights since he took over the program in 1996, may be on the verge of earning his first SEC Coach of the Year award if the Gators continue their winning ways over the final handful of regular season games. FOX Sports Florida’s Bill Koss examines how Donovan has missed out on the honor previously, even though he’s on the verge of leading Florida to its 13th consecutive 20-win season. Donovan has been overlooked for the award on at least three occasions; this year his former assistant Anthony Grant, now head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, may stand in his way. Though Alabama is 15-7 on the season, they are 7-1 in the SEC and have won 10 of their last 11 games.

2 » Publishing house HarperCollins announced in November that it will be releasing Through My Eyes, described as “an inspirational memoir by one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all time: the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national champion at the University of Florida and current Denver Broncos first round draft pick, Tim Tebow” in April 2011. Companies like Amazon.com have begun taking pre-orders as the book’s release date has been pushed back to May 24. HarperCollins will initially print 200,000 copies of the book, which Tebow will promote via appearances/signings in Denver, CO, New York, NY, and various cities in the state of Florida. An audio book will also be available, and Through My Eyes will be released for the Amazon Kindle as well. You can pre-order it by Clicking Here.

3 » Four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett indicated that the possibility of playing basketball as well as football was something he was considering when deciding which school he would commit to last week. Brissett chose the Gators which begs the question: How do the head coaches feel about his desire to play two sports? “As far as I’m concerned, in talking to Will [Muschamp], if he wants to be a part of our team, he’s more than welcome to do that,” Donovan said Thursday. “You talk about a guy missing workouts in September. October we start practice. November, December, January – he comes into (basketball) practice completely not knowing one thing. Now, as practice starts, he tries to go from football shape to basketball shape. Now, as we start to go toward the SEC Tournament, they start spring practice. I think what’s going to end up happening is he’s going to have to make a decision.” That being said, Donovan does think he is talented and capable enough to see the court. “There’s no doubt in my mind, watching him play, if he dedicated all his time to basketball he could definitely play here at Florida,” he said. “I think he’s a very, very good player.”

4 » Some Gators fans were confused when former running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton left Florida to take the wide receivers coach job with the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, listening to Drayton explain his decision, it makes perfect sense. “In 17 years of coaching, I’ve never had the opportunity to be around my family,” Drayton told BuckeyeSports.com. “My kids are born and raised in Florida, so they’ve never had an opportunity to be around their grandparents. […] I’m a Buckeye by heart. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I used to go to coach [Jim] Tressel’s camps as a high school football player at Youngstown State. I had always admired his career, always tried to model myself on some of the principles that he holds his program to. I followed his career and always had a dream of coming back to Ohio State, I just didn’t know when.”

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