TWO BITS: soccer honored, women’s b-ball splits

1 » Two Florida Gators soccer players were named to the NSCAA/Performance Subaru All-America teams last Friday. Sophomore defender Kathryn Williamson was named to the second team, while junior midfielder Tahnai Annis earned fourth team honors. Six different Florida players received recognition when the NSCAA announced its All-South Region awards. Senior MF/D Ashlee Elliott, Annis, Williamson and sophomore MF/forward Erika Tymrak were chosen for the first team, while redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine and freshman F Taylor Travis were placed on the second team. Congratulations to the ladies for their two 2010 Southeastern Conference Championships (regular season, tournament) and for a great season.

2 » Gators women’s basketball (7-2) had an up-and-down weekend at the Brown BEAR Basketball Classic in Providence, RI, defeating the Providence Friars (5-5) 73-56 on Saturday before being upset by the Brown Bears (3-6) 56-50 on Sunday. Saturday’s victory was led by redshirt junior forward Ndidi Madu, who achieved her first career double-double, and junior guard Jordan Jones, who scored a game-high 19 points in the win. Sunday’s effort was a juxtaposition of the one Florida put forth the day before. After posting their best shooting percentage of the season the day before, the Gators shot a season-worst 30.6 percent from the field in their loss. Though Brown did not perform much better, Florida’s play was worse and ultimately led to their defeat. Jones shot only 2-of-13 from the field (2-of-11 downtown), while Madu led UF with 14 points.

Gators rebound to defeat Eagles 67-48 in D.C.

Wednesday was a rough night for the No. 16/18 Florida Gators as they fell in an upset bid authored by Central Florida. Saturday’s contest in Washington, D.C. was a bit easier for Florida (6-2) as they put together a 67-48 win over the American Eagles (5-3).

Senior forward Chandler Parsons rebounded from the worst performance of his career to score 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, bring down a team-high eight rebounds, dish four assists and grab three steals. Parsons was also 2-for-3 from the free throw line after missing all six of his attempts in the previous game.

Joining Parsons to lead the Gators was junior point guard Erving Walker, who scored a team-high 16 points of 5-of-7 shooting while going 4-for-6 from downtown. Senior F Alex Tyus posted 14 points, and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin scored 12.

Down 3-7 early in the contest, Florida quickly regained the lead on back-to-back jumpers from Macklin and 10 points by Parsons in a matter of six minutes. Up on American 12-10 with 13:56 remaining in the first half, UF would retain the lead and never look back.

The Gators took a 30-21 lead going into halftime but scored seven straight points out of the break and bumped their margin to a game-high 21 points with 2:33 left in the game.

Though the other four starters combined to go 20-for-31 from the field, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was held scoreless on a 0-for-9 effort which included six misses from beyond the arc. Boynton contributed by dishing seven assists and holding onto the ball without a single turnover in 32 minutes.

As a team Florida shot 49 percent from the field, 84.6 percent from the charity stripe and 35.3 percent from downtown. They out-rebounded American 27-24, stole nine more balls (10-1) and committed seven fewer turnovers.

UF looks to keep the momentum going when they face Kent State on Thursday in Gainesville, FL. The game will begin at 7 p.m. and air live nationally on ESPN2.

POST-GAME NOTES & QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Gators rebound to defeat Eagles 67-48 in D.C.

Florida accepts invitation to 2011 Outback Bowl

After completing their worst regular season performance under head coach Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators (7-5, 4-4) have accepted an invitation to play the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4) in the 2011 Outback Bowl on New Years Day at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL.

Held continuously since 1986, the Outback Bowl is currently one of three Southeastern Conference-Big Ten games set to be played on Jan. 1.

Florida has participated in the event three times in its history, posting a 1-2 record including a 31-24 win over Iowa in their last appearance in 2005. Penn State has played in the game three times and is 3-0 including a 20-10 victory over Tennessee in 2006.

The Gators are 2-0 all-time against the Nittany Lions.

“We are excited to hear that we are going to the Outback Bowl and play in another New Year’s Day game,” Meyer said. “We are proud of our history of playing in January Bowl games – not everyone gets to enjoy that experience. We’ve been fortunate around here to be in a bowl game for 20 consecutive years and I’ve told our players and staff to not take that for granted. This is a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow and develop as a football team, while having a week of hospitality in the great Gator city of Tampa.”

“I have fond memories of my first bowl game at Florida in the 2006 Outback game. I remember the great job that Jim McVay and his staff did in hosting our football team. I want to thank Jim and the Outback Bowl Committee for inviting us back. We look forward to facing Penn State and one of the true legends in the game in Coach Joe Paterno. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Paterno and I will be honored to have the opportunity to coach in the same game as him.”

With Outback Steakhouse as the game’s title sponsor, the bowl will pay each participating team a minimum of $3.4 million. The Outback Bowl will air and celebrate it’s 25th anniversary on Jan. 1, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. on ABC with the contest being called by Mike Tiricio (play-by-play) and Jon Gruden (color commentary).

Florida advances to Sweet 16 after five-set thriller

Unlike many of their previous matches this season, defeating the Florida State Seminoles (22-11) was not easy for No. 1 Florida Gators volleyball (29-1). Nevertheless the Lady Gators rallied together on Saturday night to pull off a come-from-behind five-set victory 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 17-15) over the Seminoles in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

With the win, Florida advances to the Sweet 16 in Austin, TX, where they will face head coach Mary Wise‘s alma mater Purdue.

Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy led the way for UF with a team-high 19 kills, 21 assists and 12 digs for yet another triple-double. Junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel complimented her with 18 kills and 12 digs, and senior OH Callie Rivers added eight kills and 18 digs. All over the place Saturday was senior libero Erin Fleming, who notched a team-high 20 digs while nailing two service aces. Senior middle-back Lauren Bledsoe contributed 13 kills and posted a team-high .391 attacking percentage.

During the match Murphy registered her 1,000th career kill, becoming the 17th player in school history to reach that milestone.

Trailing two sets to one, Florida rebounded in the fourth and squeaked out a 25-21 win. They would also trail 11-7 in the fifth and final set, a deficit seemingly insurmountable considering it only takes 15 points to win the tiebreaker. Fighting to even things up, the Gators found themselves down 13-11 after Rivers nailed a service ace.

The officials believed UF touched the ball four times on the next point and whistled them for illegal contact, giving FSU a temporary 14-11 lead before they decided to negate the call and play the point over. Florida would go on to tie the set at 13 and eventually win it outright after Jaeckel hit consecutive kills to end the final set 17-15.

The Gators achieved double-digit kills in each set and out-blocked the Seminoles 16.5-10.0. Florida State put forth a superb effort in their upset bid, but Florida was able to overcome some costly errors and mistakes by the officials to win their 29th match of the season and advance in their quest for a National Championship.

Before having to contend with FSU, Florida defeated the South Carolina State Bulldogs (17-23) with a clean 3-0 sweep (25-7, 25-10, 25-12) on Friday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gators posted an impressive .586 hitting efficiency as Murphy registered eight kills, 17 assists, two service aces and four digs. Rivers had seven kills and six digs, Bledsoe notched five kills and five blocks, and Jaekel added four kills and two aces.

Florida and Purdue will square off in the Austin Regional on Friday, Dec. 10. at a time yet to be determined. The winner will face either Illinois or Texas in the Elite Eight.

HIGHLIGHTS / END OF MATCH

POST-GAME QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » Florida advances to Sweet 16 after five-set thriller

Three top recruits still sticking with the Gators

Though four-star defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan (Asheville, PA) recently dropped the Florida Gators due to a combination of their performance this season, his desire to be closer to home and the departure of assistant head coach defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney, three of Florida’s current 2011 commitments have recently reaffirmed their stance to join the team next year.

Five/four-star quarterback Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), four-star running back Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL) and four-star cornerback Nick Waisome (Groveland, FL) each gave the Gators a vote of confidence this week on separate occasions.

“I don’t know where [rumors of my displeasure with Florida] came from. There’s all kinds of people out there that will write anything to make a buzz,” Driskel told The Gainesville Sun recently. “Those [rumors] are 100 percent false. I’m 100 percent [committed] to Florida and I’ll be there in about a month and a half. [The coaches] knew all along that I’m not going anywhere. I’m as solid as can be to Florida.”

“A lot of kids waiver in the process, but I’m 100 percent to Florida,” he said separately on the radio this week. “I have been the whole way. That hasn’t changed.”

Blakely views the Gators’ struggles in 2010 as a better way for him to get on the field sooner than he perhaps may have expected.

“I look at things like this is a great opportunity for me. They need help [on offense] and I want to do what I can next season and beyond,” Blakely told ESPN. “I look at it [Florida's record] and say, ‘Who cares?’ My top two schools were Florida and Auburn. Look at Auburn, they are undefeated. I had a chance to go there and I could change my mind if I wanted to. But I will not because once I committed to the Gators I am a man of my word.

“You know, there are a lot of recruits out there that don’t give Florida a fair look because they are usually too good or because they lost some games and they all think they are going downhill. Every team has a poor year once in a while.”

Waisome is also unfazed by Florida’s recent issues, stating that he has no plans to change his commitment or even look elsewhere.

“I’m pretty much done with where I’m going. I’m firm in my commitment to Florida and I know the chances of me playing early is certainly attainable when I get there,” he told Rivals in an interview. “I like the system better at Florida in what they run and overall have a great comfort level with all the coaches and players.

“It was a tough year for Florida, but that happens even with the best teams. They were also very young at certain positions. Obviously as a corner I do feel I can help out their defense and that’s my goal to play a lot as a freshman next year. Florida played a lot of young guys on the defensive side of the ball and now I have to work to get my chance to play early as well. I’m really excited to be a part of that family and I’m just ready to get to work with the defense. It’s an aggressive defense that is only going to get stronger with the more talent we bring in.”

So while Pagan – a commitment who has been back-and-forth about his decision since the summer – decided to jump ship for a variety of reasons, most (if not the rest) of Florida’s still-growing 2011 signing class appears to be content with their decision to play for the Orange & Blue.

Photo Credit: Thomas Bender/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

FOUR BITS: Rutgers, bowl game, Moss, offers

1 » Having last squared off on Nov. 17, 2007 in Gainesville, FL, the Florida Gators and Rutgers Scarlet Knights basketball teams will once again compete – this time at the RAC in New Jersey, according to New Jersey News Room. The game will mark a homecoming for Rutgers transfer and current Florida redshirt sophomore guard Mike Rosario, who left the Scarlet Knights after last season when head coach Fred Hill was fired. Rosario will be eligible to play next year after sitting out the 2010-11 season.

2 » Though general opinion right now has the Gators football team headed to the 2010 Gator Bowl, Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union believes Florida still has a shot at earning a berth to the 2010 Outback Bowl. According to Smits, the Outback Bowl committee – which has certainly played to their own tune over the years – “might like the Florida vs. Penn State game that most observes thought would be the Gator Bowl match-up. The Outback might covet that game for the same reason the Gator Bowl did: strong national TV ratings for a pair of 7-5 teams that still would be a big draw from coast-to-coast.” The Gators would theoretically be chosen over the Mississippi State Bulldogs if they played in the Outback Bowl, a team they lost to at home this season.

3 » As we reported previously on OGGOA, the Oakland Raiders recently signed former first-round pick defensive end Jarvis Moss who was cut by the Denver Broncos just a few weeks ago. In an interview with FOX affiliate KDVR 31 in Denver, Moss recounts his time with the Broncos. “Off and on I felt like I had my chances, but things didn’t always work out,” he said. There were days when I thought to myself, ‘Man I wish I was out there.’ I tried my best, and I really wanted to turn things around and do better, but my number was called when it was. From the day that you come into this league they’re looking to replace you. You’re always looking over your shoulder. I got that feeling when things weren’t going as well in Denver as they should have. You kind of get to thinking maybe they might make a move or shift a guy around. But that was out of my control.”

Moss was moved to outside linebacker when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (who has since left) took over the Broncos’ defense, but now he is back to playing his natural position with the Raiders. “Everyone has been positive. I am going to play D-end and have my hand down again,” he said. “I’m just trying to get everything on the fly. I thought outside linebacker was a good opportunity, but obviously it didn’t work out in Denver.”

4 » Though only a junior in high school, 2012 defensive end recruit Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL) has earned his third college scholarship offer – this one from Florida. Considered Jefferson High School’s top player next year, McCord received a visit and offer from Gators recruiting coordinator and running back coach Stan Drayton on Thursday. At 6’4” and 220 lbs., McCord registered 54 tackles and 14 sacks last season and only hopes to improve on those numbers next year. The St. Petersburg Times also reports that Florida is interested in one of Jefferson’s seniors – linebacker Ramik Wilson (Tampa, FL). “[Drayton] said he wondered why [the Gators] hadn’t offered him yet,” head coach Mike Fenton said of Wilson, who registered 68 tackles, 15 sacks and six forced fumbles last year and was also visited by Drayton on Thursday.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

FOUR BITS: Driskel, Haden, Hernandez, Pouncey

1 » Florida Gators five/four-star 2011 quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) was named 2010-11 Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year on Thursday by Gatorade and ESPN RISE. According to Gatorade, “The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Driskel as Florida’s best high school football player.” He is now a finalist for the National Football Player of the Year award, which will be announced in late December. At 6’4” and 230 lbs., Driskel went 138-for-235 for 1,783 yards and 16 touchdowns (with three interceptions) as a senior. He also rushed for 1,296 yards and 20 touchdowns on 151 carries and scored two more touchdowns on pass receptions. Florida freshman safety Matt Elam took home the same award in 2009-10.

2 » Also bringing home an award Thursday is Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November. Haden has grabbed an interception in three-straight games for Cleveland and is set to start the second game of his career Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He also recorded 16 total tackles and seven pass breakups last month.

3 » Sports Illustrated published a feature story on New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez over a week ago – something we apparently skipped over. The story covers Hernandez’s love and distaste for the Patriots as a youngster, how he felt about Randy Moss being traded and how happy he is to play so close to where he grew up. “I felt like it was time to take that step and move on,” Hernandez told SI.com about his decision to leave after his junior year. “So far it’s work out pretty well.”

4 » Another good read is a feature Yahoo! Sports’ Les Carpenter on Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center Maurkice Pouncey. Sure to be up for NFL Rookie of the Year honors this season, Pouncey has been “forced to forge [his] own identity” away from his brother this year and has impressed everyone he comes in contact with both on the field and in the locker room. Carpenter explores the Pounceys’ decision to split, how each have handled the separation this year and why their story is such a unique one.

Photo Credit: John H. Reid III/Cleveland Browns

12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

The No. 16/18 (for now) Florida Gators (5-2) suffered a tough loss Wednesday night, falling 57-54 to the Central Florida Knights (6-0) in Orlando, FL. Though the upset loss is certainly tough for the Gators to stomach, the way they played appeared to make head coach Billy Donovan queasy. He spoke to the media after the game and had plenty to say about his team’s performance at the Amway Center.

EVEN IF FLORIDA WON, THEY LOST

Some teams steal wins and others – like Florida last year – get lucky with some buzzer beaters, but no matter what happened Wednesday in Orlando, Donovan knew that the Gators were not worthy of any positive recognition should the outcome have gone their way. “We didn’t even deserve to be in that position [to tie or win],” he said. “If we would have won the game, it would have been a complete steal. I would have felt bad for Donnie [Jones]. Nevermind how he would have felt, I would have felt awful for him. I would have gave him the win.”

Though Donovan dismissed the notion that he was “irate” after the upset, he did explain that the team’s “issues are bigger than this loss” though they can be corrected with maximum effort. He continued, “The one thing that’s good with our schedule is, when you play games like this and you play Ohio State, you play on the road at Florida State, your issues flour – they get exposed. Every team’s got issues. How you become a good team is how well you deal with your issues inside your team to get better.”

NOT SELFISH BUT CERTAINLY NOT SELFLESS

Donovan treaded carefully after Wednesday’s game to ensure he did not use world “selfish” when describing his team’s performance. However there is no question that word could certainly be used when discussing how Florida played in the contest.

“We have a group of guys – all of our older guys are way, way too wrapped up in their offense,” Donovan said. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton – you look at their assist-to-turnover ratio last year to this year [and it’s not good].

“You look at, in this game, with the way we were scoring in around the basket, those guys should know just by playing the game [that] the ball needs to go inside. We get wrapped up when we’re not scoring or we’re not getting touches and looks and things like that. We’re not a cohesive team right now, certainly on the offensive end of the floor. The defensive part is easy because they understand if they’re not doing the things they need to do they’re probably going to come out of the game.

“They’re not playing together. They’re not utilizing each other’s individual talents. And the disappointing part is these guys played together last year.”

TEAM LACKS UNDERSTANDING, ISN’T HELPING EACH OTHER

“That’s the part to me that’s a little bit disturbing as a coach,” Donovan said of the team not recognizing that [Vernon] Macklin was on fire and could not be defended. “He got in foul trouble in the first half so he was out with two fouls, but the recognition by your team… I can’t call a play every single time down the floor because there’s transition. When they’re playing they should be seeing the fact that Vernon Macklin is having a big night offensively. The other four guys should be saying, ‘Let’s get Vern the ball.’ But we’re too wrapped up in, ‘I didn’t get a shot now,’ or ‘I missed my last one.’ They’ve got to see those things. Every time I ran a play, I kept running a play at him.

“We don’t have very good chemistry on offense with this group right now at all. And that’s the disappointing part. These are older guys that are less focused on what they can be doing to help the group get better. You always hear the thing: ‘A great player makes everyone else around them better.’ We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better. We’re less concerned about how to do that; we’re more concerned about, ‘How am I doing.’”

PARSONS FAILS TO DELIVER IN RETURN TO HOMETOWN

With approximately 70 tickets distributed to family and friends and a lot of eyes on him Wednesday, senior forward Chandler Parsons appeared to crack under pressure. Though he helped distribute and rebound the ball, Parsons simply played awful in his 32 minutes on the court, going 1-for-9 from the field (0-for-3 from downtown) for two points and 0-6 from the charity stripe (including an air ball). He played so bad, in fact, that his lack of production stood out even though fellow senior F Alex Tyus went 0-for-5 and was held scoreless in 21 minutes.

“Chandler and Vernon last year, they were really on edge about really trying to compete and do the things they needed to do. Chandler – with the way he’s shooting free throws right now – that looked like he was his sophomore year,” Donovan said. “[He’s] just not in the right frame of mind. I don’t know if we’ll be a great free throw shooting team or not, but Chandler’s certainly better than 0-6.”

A career 61.5 percent free throw shooter, Parsons was making them at a 66.6 percent clip before Wednesday’s game. Struggling more is Macklin, who shot 58.8 percent from the line in 2009-10; he is currently shooting 23.1 percent from the stripe.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/1: Donovan shares his post-game thoughts

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